The world’s first Boeing 777-300ER passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversion has conducted its maiden test flight. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) completed the conversion for customer AerCap, with the freighter expected to enter service with US-based cargo carrier Kalitta Air later this year.
Milestone for 777-300ERSF program
The first “Big Twin” Boeing 777-300ERSF, which stands for ‘Extended Range Special Freighter,’ took flight on Friday as the highly anticipated conversion program nears its entry to service. Offering up to 25% more capacity than the 777-200F and a host of efficiency advantages over other large freighters, the Big Twin will be a major addition to the long-haul cargo game. Departing Tel Aviv on the morning of March 24th, the flight lasted just under two hours and climbed up to 20,000ft over the Mediterranean before returning safely.
The aircraft began life as a passenger Boeing 777-300ER under Emirates in 2005, serving the Middle Eastern carrier for 15 years before passing into the hands of GECAS in 2020, then AerCap after its acquisition of the former in 2021. The widebody P2F will have a maximum payload of 101.6 tonnes and is powered by two GE90 engines with a 21% reduction in fuel burn compared to the Boeing 747-400F.
Ahead of its anticipated entry to service later this year, the test flight is one of the final hurdles to obtaining full certification, which IAI says is “in the final stages.” If all goes to plan, the first 777-300ERSF should enter service with launch customer Kalitta Air as early as the first half of 2023 – this isn’t too far beyond IAI’s initial projections of a 2022 entry date, with supply chain issues setting the program back ever so slightly.
IAI draws upon 45 years of cargo conversion experience, which includes successful P2F programs for the Boeing 767-200/300, Boeing 747-400 and Boeing 737-700/800, all of which are in service today. The company has worked extensively with lessor AerCap, with the two partnering on over 60 P2F conversions and counting.
Demand for the Big Twin
Given how successful the passenger Boeing 777-300ER has been at almost 850 orders, it’s no surprise to see demand for the converted freighter through the roof, with IAI establishing additional conversion facilities across the globe to cope with demand.
The program has attracted plenty of orders already, believed to be over 60 scheduled for delivery within the next five years – Kalitta Air signed on as the launch customer of the P2F twinjet back in October 2020, while AerCap has a firm order for 20 conversions and options for another 10. Other notable customers include Canadian cargo airline CargoJet and Taiwanese carrier Eva Air, while AerCap recently announced an agreement with Hong Kong-based cargo operator Fly Meta for four of the converted widebodies to be delivered between 2024 and 2025.
Are you happy to see the Boeing 777-300ERSF complete its maiden test flight? Just how popular do you see this converted plane becoming? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.