Boeing will perform another 10 Boeing 737-800 freight conversions for GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) and is considering cargo markets for other programs, including the potential new midmarket aircraft (NMA) and Boeing 787.

GECAS, which was the launch customer for Boeing’s 737 Boeing Converted Freighters (BCF) program, firmed up purchase rights on a further 10 737-800BCFs on the first day of the Paris Air Show and secured new purchase rights on a further 15.

The order takes GECAS to a total commitment for 55 737-800BCFs, plus 10 purchase rights, secured across three orders since the program launched in 2016.

GECAS cargo SVP and manager Richard Greener said the first 737-800BCF prototype took “a little bit longer than planned.” But he added, “it has stood the test of time and is will be an excellent freighter and workhorse for the industry.”

The aircraft for conversion were meant to be sourced from within GECAS’ extensive fleet, but the type has proved popular, so the lessor has acquired 14-15 737-800s specifically for conversion. Typically, the aircraft are 14-16 years old.

“We see very strong demand for the airplane,” GECAS CCO Declan Kelly said, adding that the source of the 10 firmed conversions is yet to be identified. The 737-800BCFs will deliver over the period 2020-23.

Boeing Global Services president & CEO Stan Deal said 767 freight conversions have proved quite popular, as older passenger aircraft were replaced by 787s. “We are now seeing a repeat of that as 737s are coming for retirement off their passenger life,” he said.

Responding to a question about whether the 787 could also be converted, Deal replied: “Right now, the 767 is the freighter fleet of choice in that capacity cargo market and we’re satisfied with demand. Over time, we will evaluate if the business case makes sense for the 787.”

He also said cargo is a consideration for the NMA, assuming that aircraft is launched. “We’re certainly looking as we formulate the NMA whether the product has a future – how we would also configure that for freight, given the tonnage out of that product.”

The 737-800BCF, which is on display for the first time at the Paris Air Show, can carry up to 23.9 tonnes (52,800lbs) of payload. To date, Boeing has secured over 120 commitments for the 737BCF.

GECAS has already taken delivery of 12 737-800 freight conversions – including 10 from Boeing – which are placed with ASL Airlines (two aircraft), West Atlantic (four aircraft), Ethiopian Airlines (two aircraft) and Amazon (four aircraft). The two aircraft placed with Ethiopian were converted by AEI.

Victoria Moores