Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has reportedly advised customers not to fly some Boeing 737 freighters converted by the aerospace manufacturer pending a review of a fix that it has submitted for certification by the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel (CAAI). IAI had previously said it had detected a potentially unsafe design issue in some of the converted aircraft.
IAI has recommended all operators of its converted Boeing 737 freighters to ground the aircraft after it detected an “apparent irregularity” in the production process of a rigid barrier installed in some of the total 47 converted 737s delivered to customers worldwide, Reuters reported.
IAI, a major Israeli aerospace and aviation manufacturer producing technologies and systems for both defense and commercial markets, said on December 11, 2019, it came up with an “interim solution” to the design issue. The fix has been reviewed and is expected to be approved by the national aviation authority, the state-owned company said.
According to IAI, the rigid barrier installed on some aircraft, in front of the cargo cabin, is an additional safety feature designed to provide emergency support under extraordinary circumstances. The company’s testing found that the part was not working as supposed to and that the issue “may limit the way the aircraft can be safely loaded for flight.”
“The rigid barrier does not affect flight under normal conditions,” the company stressed as quoted by Reuters. “To the best of IAI’s knowledge, there has never been a flight incident in connection with the rigid barrier on these 737 aircraft.” IAI now awaits for an Airworthiness Directive (AD) to be issued by the CAAI as soon as December 12, 2019, allowing the grounded freighters to resume flights with the implemented fixes.
Although it is not known how many operators fly IAI’s converted Boeing 737 freighters, one airline that has been affected is Qantas Airways. The Australian flag carrier has reportedly taken all four of its 737-300 freighters out of service. These aircraft are flown on domestic cargo routes by the airline’s Sydney-based subsidiary Express Freighters Australia on behalf of Qantas Freight. According to planespotters.net data, the four 737-300s have the average age of 33 years.
IAI presents itself as a world leader specializing in passenger-to-cargo conversions of the Boeing 767, 737 and 747 aircraft families. To date, the company has delivered over 250 converted aircraft, including the 737-300, 737-400 and 737-700. IAI’s Aviation Group’s holds supplemental type certificates (STCs) by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and other civil aviation authorities. It also has on-going programs for 737-800 and 777 freighter conversions under development.
“It is important to note that no ADs have been issued against any of the IAI developed STCs (737, 767, 747),” the company states on its website. At the time of writing this article, this stands to be true, but not for long.