LONDON – Tel Aviv-based Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will convert a Boeing 777-300ER to a cargo plane for the first time.

The aircraft will be called Boeing 777-300ERSF (which stands for Special Freighter). The conversion took place in close contact with well-known American leasing company GECAS.

On April 15, Israel’s Independence Day, the still unconverted aircraft made its first flight over the skies of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and Masada for two hours, followed by a Gulfstream G280.

GECAS IAI announced in October 2019 the launch of the Boeing 777-300ERSF, and the establishment of a passenger to freighter conversion program. Dubbed “The Big Twin” — denoting its status as the largest ever twin-engined freighter — the initiative is jointly funded by GECAS and IAI.

With agreements signed in July 2019 and a prototype aircraft to be provided by GECAS, the 777-300ERSF Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) Development Program was then launched.

Boeing 777-300ERSF Photo: IAI

The Aircraft

The Boeing 777-300ER was owned by Emirates (EK) and was in fact the first 777-300ER to come out of EK’s fleet. Registered as A6-EBB, it remained in EK’s fleet for 13 years before being sent to storage from March 2018 to June 2018. From February 2020, the aircraft was re-registered as OE-IHW, then taken over by GECAS.

The plane had made its first flight on March 9, 2005, and was delivered on the 30th of the same month. Equipped with two GE90-115B thrusters, its line number was 508 of the 777 production line with serial number MSN32789. In addition, the aircraft was configured in three classes: first class, business class and economy class. There were 8 seats available in first class, 42 seats in business and 310 in economy.

Kalitta Air’s Boeing 777-300ERSF render Photo: Gecas

Changes and Launch Customer

To be compliant, the aircraft is to naturally undergo structural changes: a cargo door on the main deck was implemented, fuselage reinforcement, window plugs installed, and a complete cargo interior including 9g rigid barriers. and the cargo system, as well as the modification of the crew compartment.

The first launch customer will be Kalitta (K4), which ordered three Boeing 777-300ERs in October 2020 by signing a contract with GECAS. The first aircraft delivered will be expected in 2023 and registered as N557CC.

GECAS Cargo senior vice-president Rich Greener, said, “We’ve begun executing on the dedicated freighter design developed by the IAI and GECAS Cargo team towards manufacturing the kits, and the actual conversion phase under licensing from Boeing.”

Boeing 777-300ERSF Photo: IAI

Boeing Cargo Forecast

The number of cargo aircraft worldwide will increase by 70% over the next 20 years according to Boeing, as air freight traffic is expected to more than double. With the said increase in air freight traffic, the current 1,770 aircraft will go up to 3,010 aircraft by the end of the forecast period.

Of the 2,370 planned freighter deliveries, 1,130 will replace retired airplanes, while the rest will expand the global fleet to meet anticipated traffic growth. More than 60% of deliveries will be freight conversions, nearly 88% of which will be standard-bodied passenger airplanes.

Featured image: Boeing 777-300ERSF. Photo: IAI