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AEI certifications enable more 737-800 converted freighter sales

Chrono Aviation is 1st customer in Canada

Chrono Aviation is adding two Boeing 737-800 passenger-to-freighter aircraft to its cargo fleet. (Photo: Chrono Aviation)

Aeronautical Engineers Inc., an aerospace engineering firm that designs and licenses kits to convert used passenger aircraft into cargo jets, has received two new certifications for its Boeing 737-800 product that open the door for more sales. 

Transport Canada has approved a supplemental type certificate for its version of the 737-800 converted freighter, the Miami-based company said Monday. 

An STC is an approval to carry out a modification on a particular aircraft type that aviation authorities consider a sufficient change to the original design to require specific validation. AEI now holds certifications from the U.S., European Union, China and Canada. The company is close to getting approvals from the United Kingdom and Brazil, Robert Convey, senior vice president of sales and marketing, said via email.

The Transport Canada approval allows AEI to fulfill last month’s order to convert a 737-800 for Chrono Aviation, its first Canadian customer. 

Chrono Aviation, based in Montreal, provides passenger and cargo charter services with a fleet of small turboprop and 737-type aircraft that can carry passengers and cargo. KF Aerospace in Kelowna, British Columbia, is nearly finished converting Chrono’s first 737-800 freighter under license from AEI, Chrono Vice President Vincent Gagon said. 

KF Aerospace will also modify a second 737-800 purchased by Chrono using the AEI design beginning in June. Chrono is leasing the first converted freighter.

Gagon said Chrono has a firm contract to fly fresh food out of Winnipeg, Manitoba, on the 737-800 to the city of Iqaluit in the Canadian Arctic. The two planes will also be used for ad hoc charters and subcontracting to major airlines. 

AEI earlier this month also received extended-range twin-engine operations certification for the 737-800 to fly 180-minute extended operations over water and remote regions, which it says will open routes in the Caribbean, North Africa and western China. The extended-range certification permits the aircraft to fly routes that are more than 60 minutes from the nearest airport suitable for an emergency landing. 

The company says it is the only conversion house to achieve this approval so far for the 737-800.

AEI delivered 22 737-800 passenger-to-freighter conversions in 2021 and expects to produce 30 freighters this year, Convey said. 2021 was the first full year of production after the company received FAA certification in 2019 and began ramping up in 2020 amid the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The order book reflects the strong demand for air cargo transport during the pandemic and projections for continued growth, with a heavy push from e-commerce. Express delivery companies and others flying for online shippers have shown keen interest in the 737-800 because of its flexibility, fuel efficiency and quick loading capability. Another narrowbody freighter, the new Airbus A321-200, is also becoming a popular alternative since entering the market 15 months ago.

The AEI converted 737-800 has a main deck payload capacity of 52,700 pounds with 11 full-height container positions plus an additional position for a smaller container. 

Structural changes in a conversion include covering windows, removing seats and storage bins, and installing reinforced flooring, a wide cargo door, a rigid barrier to protect the cockpit and a cargo-handling system. 

Click here to read more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]