IAI starts modifications on ‘Big Twin’ freighter

The 'Big Twin' project, part of a US$400 million deal signed in 2019, will now see modifications, which is expected to take around 5 months.

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Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has started the structural modification phase in the conversion of the prototype Boeing 777-300ERSF (special freighter), in partnership with GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS).

The ‘Big Twin’ project, part of a US$400 million deal signed in 2019, will exit the development process and is now set for structural and systems modification. IAI estimates the process of converting the widebody passenger plane into a freighter aircraft to take around 130 days.

The passenger-to-freighter conversion will include changing the structure, which will involve installing a new cargo door, replacing and strengthening the aircraft floor, installing reinforcements near the cargo opening, and modifying electrical systems to enable safe and convenient operation.

Also read: IAI, Incheon Airport to establish B777P2F conversion facility

The rise in e-commerce has created increased demand for cargo conversions of older jets over the least few years, and Yossi Melamed, executive VP of the Aviation Group at IAI, expects slots to fill up quickly for B777 conversions. Melamed said all of the company’s slots for converting the B767 are filled until next year. Compared to the B767 freighter, the Big Twin has more than double the payload at 103 tonnes.

“The demand for converting the B777 aircraft is high, and I expect that the open spots for conversions will be quickly filled,” stated Melamed.

“Since IAI does not have wide competition in the field of passenger to freight conversions, we expect to receive over 50 aircraft that will undergo conversion.”

The process itself will need certification for the converted aircraft by the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel (CAAI) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the US, IAI noted. In April, the company drafted its Big Twin prototype to fly over Israel during the independence day celebration. Upon completion, Kalitta Air will take delivery of the twin-jet widebody freighter as the launch partner.

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