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Nontraditional airlines in Brazil, Indonesia pursue 737-800 freighters

A startup cargo airline in Indonesia, a logistics company in Brazil with its own fleet and an American passenger airline with freighters focused on the Alaska market are each poised to receive two Boeing 737-800 converted cargo jets within a year.

Modern Logistics, based in Sao Paulo, said last week it will lease two 737-800 aircraft overhauled for dedicated cargo operations to modernize its fleet and enable international expansion. 

The 10-year-old company’s business model is to provide comprehensive logistics services for customers, including controlling its own capacity and sourcing transportation to third parties. It currently operates four 737 Classics — types 300 and 400 — and manages 6,000 trucks from partner carriers.

The fleet upgrade is necessary to accommodate rapid growth in e-commerce shipments and rising demand for long-haul services in the region, Modern Logistics said in a news release. Equipped with more fuel-efficient engines and with 10% more cargo capacity, the 737-800s are 15% more cost efficient on a per-ton basis than their predecessors. Parts and maintenance are also easier to source for the newer aircraft, which will provide a competitive advantage over operators relying on older models, it said.

The 737-800 freighter is a standard-size aircraft with a maximum payload of 25 tons typically operated on short- and medium-haul shuttle routes.

Representatives declined to identify the party selected to provide the planes, but did say the conversions will be done through Boeing’s program. They estimated the first aircraft will be delivered during the fourth quarter, with the second one following in the first quarter of 2024. Three leases of the older aircraft will be renewed this year on a short-term basis as part of the transition to a newer fleet, President and CFO Mario Fernandes da Costa said in an email message.

Modern Logistics has received authorization from Brazil’s civil aviation authority to operate internationally. Brazilian regulators last year approved a 737-800 conversion design by Aeronautical Engineers Inc., an independent conversion specialist in Miami, but must still sign off on the Boeing structural modifications before the planes can operate within the country.

Indonesia freighter operator

Last week, PT Rusky Aero Indonesia, a newly launched cargo airline doing business as Raindo United Services, signed lease agreements with Dublin-based aviation leasing company AerCap (NYSE: AER) for two Boeing 737-800 converted freighters. 

Both planes will be outfitted with Boeing modification kits, which include a large cargo door, protective cockpit barrier, rugged cabin lining and floor trusses to support heavy containers. The planes will be converted in China by licensed partners Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services and Taikoo (Shandong) Aircraft Engineering Co. 

In January, AerCap Cargo marked the delivery of its 50th 737-800 cargo conversion from Boeing. AerCap customers include Amazon Air, GOL Linhas Aéreas in Brazil, JD.com and ASL Aviation.

PT Rusky Aero received its airline license in December and plans to begin service with one aircraft in July or August. It will serve the domestic market in Indonesia as well as Singapore, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China.

Alaska Air Cargo update

Alaska Airlines will receive its first 737-800 converted freighter this summer and the second by the end of the year, the cargo division said last week in a newsletter to customers. The carrier revealed plans in March 2022 to expand its cargo fleet by retrofitting two planes from its passenger fleet for dedicated cargo activity. 

Alaska Airlines (NYSE: ALK) currently operates three 737-700 freighters. The two new aircraft will nearly double freighter capacity because the 737-800s have more loading space than the existing cargo jets, which are used to deliver goods to Alaska while also moving exports of seafood and other commodities to U.S. cities.

Alaska Air Cargo is preparing for the new aircraft adding ground support equipment, pouring concrete for new parking pads and increasing the number of containers in its network, according to Managing Director Adam Drouhard. Also in progress is the first back-office upgrade in more than 15 years. The new iCargo technology from IBS Software is an end-to-end cargo management system that will include better customer interfaces and links to scanner technology to improve shipment tracking. 

Iceland 

Meanwhile, Iceland-based cargo airline Bluebird Nordic received the first of two Boeing 737-800 passenger-to-freighter aircraft managed by GA Telesis, bringing to eight the fleet total for the aircraft type. The company, part of the Avia Solutions Group, also operates seven older Boeing 737 Classics.

GA Telesis, a leasing and maintenance services company in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said Thursday that the latest 737-800 was modified by Miami-based Aeronautical Engineering Inc. and its overhaul vendor. The two planes are owned by Tokyo Century Corp. 

GAT, which is managing the two conversions and the leases, entered the air cargo sector in 2021 and has delivered five converted freighters so far.

Leasing companies rushed into the conversion market for narrowbody freighters like the 737-800 during the pandemic, reserving production slots for one to two years in advance. The cargo market has cooled off substantially in the past year, but it is too soon to know yet to what extent new order activity has cooled off.

Click here for more FreightWaves and American Shipper articles by Eric Kulisch.

Twitter: @ericreports; LinkedIn: Eric Kulisch; [email protected]

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