Emirates SkyCargo Stays the Course with 777-300ER Freighter Conversions Despite Delays

Emirates SkyCargo has reaffirmed its commitment to converting 10 of its 777-300ER passenger aircraft into freighters, despite facing production delays.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is responsible for converting these Emirates-owned aircraft, although they were not mentioned in Emirates’ recently published 2023–2024 financial year report. Earlier this year, Emirates SkyCargo informed Air Cargo News (ACN) that delays would likely push the aircraft’s entry into service to late this year or 2025.

An Emirates spokesperson told ACN this week, “Despite the technical delays our partner is currently experiencing with the freighter conversions, we remain confident in the program.” Once converted, the freighters will offer unique operational advantages, including larger and more flexible capacity, ideal for high-volume lanes and transporting e-commerce shipments. This is an important addition to our future fleet, enabling us to support our customers in line with evolving customer trends. We look forward to deploying them across our network to move goods quickly and efficiently.”

Yaacov Berkovitz, vice president and general manager of conversion and upgrades at IAI, indicated in an interview published in Air Cargo News’s Summer 2024 issue that IAI is nearing the completion of certification testing for its prototype. However, delays in the certification process have impacted the testing timeline. “Everything is okay; we are waiting for the FAA,” said Berkovitz, who expects to obtain certification by the end of the second quarter or early in the third quarter.

Emirates SkyCargo first announced its investment in 777-300ER conversions with IAI in 2021, initially planning for four conversions to be completed in 2024. This plan was later expanded to include 10 conversions. IAI has not confirmed the delivery date for the first converted 777-300ER.

By the end of the 2023–24 fiscal year, Emirates SkyCargo’s total freighter fleet consisted of 11 Boeing 777Fs. The carrier is also expecting the delivery of four 777-200Fs this year and one in 2025. Additionally, Emirates SkyCargo has three Boeing 747Fs on wet lease to meet air cargo demand.

While several airlines have scaled back on freighter conversions and operations this year, there has been a steady upturn in air cargo demand. Last month, Air Canada announced it would halt plans to convert an additional two Boeing 767 aircraft into freighters, maintaining a fleet of eight converted 767 freighters. Earlier this year, Cargojet canceled plans to convert four 777s into freighters, and US regional air carrier Mesa Airlines ceased providing air cargo services for DHL.

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