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Boeing has launched a 737-800NG freighter conversion program on the basis of orders and commitments for up to 55 conversions from seven customers, the company announced Wednesday. Dubbed the 737-800 Boeing Converted Freighter (BCF), the program marks Boeing’s first ever conversion offering involving the 737NG series. The company expects operators to use the airplanes mainly to carry express cargo on domestic routes.   

“The Next-Generation 737 provides exceptional value to express freight carriers through its superior payload, range, reliability and efficiency,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes Commercial Aviation Services senior vice president Stan Deal. “While the recovery of the global cargo market has been slow, we see demand for freighters, such as the 737-800BCF, that will carry express cargo on domestic routes…Over the next 20 years, Boeing forecasts customers will need more than 1,000 converted freighters the size of the 737, with China’s domestic air freight carriers accounting for nearly one-third of the total market.”

The 737-800BCF carries up to 52,800 pounds (23.9 metric tons) of cargo, flying routes of nearly 2,000 nautical miles (3,690 kilometers).

Twelve pallet positions—11 standard pallets and one half-pallet—provide 5,000 cu ft (141.5 cubic meters) of cargo space on the main deck, supplemented by two lower-lobe compartments providing more than 1,540 cu ft (43.7 cubic meters) of space for revenue-generating cargo.

Boeing has won firm orders for a total of 30 737-800BCFs along with commitments for another 25. YTO Airlines, based in Hangzhou, China, has ordered 10 conversions and signed commitments for another 10; China Postal Airlines, based in Beijing, has ordered 10 conversions and GE Capital Aviation (GECAS), which has agreed to provide the initial airplane for conversion, has ordered five conversions. Meanwhile, an unannounced customer has ordered five conversions and placed two commitments.  

Other signatories for a total of 13 commitments included SF Airlines, based in Shenzhen, China; Cargo Air, based in Sofia, Bulgaria, and another unidentified customer.

Boeing expects to deliver the first 737-800BCF in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Plans call for existing passenger airplanes to undergo modification at “select” facilities located near conversion demand, including Boeing Shanghai. Modifications include installing a large main-deck cargo door, a cargo-handling system and accommodations for up to four non-flying crewmembers or passengers.

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