NAIROBI, October 26, 2012 - Kenya Airways has announced that it will convert four of its Boeing B737-300 passenger jets into freighters as it ramps up its cargo unit to meet surging cargo transportation demand across Africa and beyond.
The first two of these aircraft are expected to undergo freighter modification by Aeronautical Engineers Inc. (AEI) at its authorized conversion center, Boeing Shanghai Aircraft Services, in Shanghai China.
Kenya Airways Chief Operating Officer Mr. Mbuvi Ngunze, said that the converted Boeing 737 -300 freighters was a cost effective means of boosting efficiency and reliability in the firm’s cargo unit and would translate into a significant enhancement of the firm’s revenue stream.
“We are using our own equipment with minimal additional investment making it cost effective; and since we already know the aircraft, minimal additional training is required to operate the aircraft,” Mr. Ngunze explained.
The aircraft registered as KQC will be the first of the two aircraft that will be converted. It is expected to go out of service by end of October for the conversion which is estimated to take about three months. The aircraft is expected back into service as a freighter February next year. Upon its return, the second Boeing 737-300 aircraft will go out of service and is expected back from the conversion center as a freighter in June 2013.
The converted freighters will operate in Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa. The planned destinations include: Juba, Luanda, Bangui, Douala, Yaoundé, Kigali, Entebbe, Dar-es-Salaam, Kinshasa and Bujumbura amongst others.
The regional freighter will allow KQ Cargo to capitalize on full cargo potential on routes that are currently served by the single aisle passenger jets that includes the Embraers and Boeing 737 family. The freighter capacity would also accommodate excess baggage overspill complementing trader traffic especially in Central and west Africa.
Mr. Ngunze said that the converted freighters will add value to the firm’s cargo business by expanding flows from China to other Africa points. At the moment, the Boeing 747 Safari Connection freighter operated by Kenya Airways, KLM and Martin Air from Guangzhou China has been mainly focusing on West Africa bound flows.
“The regional freighters presents value addition through expansion of flows from Far East to other Africa points, a perfect business solution for the in-feed, de-feed capacity mismatch,” he added.
The conversion involves extensive structural work that includes strengthening the floor, frames, door cut-out and installation of a new cargo door and surround to withstand heavier cargo loads and accommodate large freight pallets and containers. Aircraft mechanical and electrical systems will also be modified to suit the aircraft's new mission as a freighter.
The converted freighters will be in a ten pallet format instead of the usual nine pallet on such aircraft in addition to installment of an Ancra main deck cargo loading system.
The vice president of sales and marketing at AEI Robert Convey stated that the B737-300 aircraft conversions is further proof that the narrow body freighter fleet on the African continent is continuing to move into more and modern aircraft.