Boeing is in “advanced talks” with customers over a freighter version of its 777X passenger plane, an executive was quoted as saying at the Dubai Airshow.
The proposed new variant comes as rival manufacturer Airbus is in talks for a first customer for the freighter version of its A350 passenger jet.
Boeing also announced more passenger to freighter conversion lines for its 737-800 jet in Canada and the United Kingdom.
“Cargo has been one of the silver linings of this [Covid-19] crisis for us as manufacturers and also for the airlines in terms of the logistics requirements around the globe,” The National quoted Ihssane Mournir, Boeing senior vice president of commercial sales and marketing, as saying at a briefing on November 13, 2021.
“The demand is sticking its head up and it looks pretty good, so we will obviously continue talking to customers. We are not at a point yet to make any announcements, whether about customers or for a launch, but we are pretty advanced into the discussions,” Mournir said, according to The National report.
The much-delayed 777X is making its public debut at the Dubai Airshow, which started on November 14, 2021. Mournir also confirmed plans for first deliveries of the passenger version of the jet in 2023.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has decimated global passenger travel, the freight market has been booming, prompting a flurry of announcements for conversions and orders in recent months.
Boeing announced on November 14, 2021 that it will open a 737-800 passenger to freighter conversion line at its MRO facility at London Gatwick airport in 2022, plus two conversion lines at KF Aerospace MRO in Kelowna, Canada in 2023.
The first 737-800 aircraft to be converted at the new London Gatwick line will be for Icelease, which announced its first order for 11 737-800 converted freighters at the Dubai Airshow on November 14, 2021.
“We are confident in the quality and proven record of Boeing’s 737-800 converted freighter, and pleased to be the launch customer for their new London MRO facility,” said Magnus Stephensen, senior partner at Icelease in the press release. “We look forward to bringing the freighter in to our fleet to serve our growing global customer base operating domestic and short-haul routes.”
“This new work for London Gatwick not only is a result of the cargo demand we’re seeing worldwide, but also because of the aviation industry’s valued position in the United Kingdom,” said Sir Martin Donnelly, president of Boeing Europe and managing director of Boeing in the UK and Ireland.
Boeing added that it forecasts 1,720 freighter conversions will be needed over the next 20 years to meet demand. Of those, 1,200 will be standard-body conversions, with nearly 20% of that demand coming from European carriers.