IAI, Ascent To Partner For Boeing 777 P2F Conversions
Israel Aerospace Industries has chosen its first North American site for passenger-to-freighter conversions on Boeing 777 aircraft. It has signed an agreement with Ascent Aviation Services that will see the U.S.-based MRO carry out Boeing 777-300ERSF conversion services from its site in Marana, Arizona.
The 15-year agreement, signed on Sep. 22, will see Ascent commence two lines of 777-300ERSF aircraft from 2024 in Marana. According to Scott Butler, chief commercial officer at Ascent, the company plans to convert three aircraft annually per line.
To support the program, Ascent is building two new widebody hangars, the pre-construction for which already has commenced. It expects both hangars to be completed prior to first aircraft induction.
“In Marana, we have a long history of Boeing widebody heavy maintenance and will expand our capabilities with this P2F work with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI),” says Butler. The agreement is also not its first foray into P2F conversions—Ascent is currently working with Sine Draco on its Airbus A321 P2F conversion at its Tucson, Arizona facility.
Elsewhere in the U.S., competitors are establishing other 777 P2F conversion programs. Mammoth Freighters is working with Aspire MRO on 777 conversions at Fort Worth Alliance Airport, and Kansas Modification Center and NIAR WERX at Wichita State University are finishing certification work for their 777-300ERCF conversion.
IAI completed its first test flight of a converted 777-300ERSF in March and it is in the final stages of the certification process. It expects to receive supplemental type certificates from the FAA and the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel by the end of 2023.
IAI's president and CEO Boaz Levy says the agreement with Ascent “represents a strong direct continuation” of collaboration agreements between IAI and U.S. companies. “IAI's conversions and upgrades business line, aviation group, underscores the confidence that the company has in Ascent Aviation Services’ ability to set up a conversion site within the required timetable, and next year to carry out the first conversion,” Levy adds.
David Querio, president and CEO of Ascent, which specializes in heavy maintenance services, says the expansion into 777-300ER P2F conversions will lead to the creation of “hundreds” of new high-skilled jobs.
IAI predicts strong demand for widebody aircraft like the 777-300ERSF, which after conversion will be able to carry payloads of up to 100 tons, as a driver of establish new conversion partnerships globally.
In June this year at the Paris Air Show, IAI confirmed plans to expand its P2F conversion program for 777-300ERSF aircraft to multiple global sites with the long-term aim of converting 20 widebodies annually.
Over the past two years, IAI has signed 777-300ER conversion agreements for sites in Seoul, South Korea with Incheon International Airport and local MRO provider Sharp Technics and with Etihad Engineering in Abu Dhabi.