Eastern predicts significant freight surge, without major freight conversion – PaxEx.Aero
Air freight is hot right now, and Eastern airlines wants to participate in this action. Of the society previously announced freight plans – some 777-200 – are much more significant. Today, Eastern announced plans to fly up to 35,777 as part of a custom freight conversion unique to the company. The first is expected to enter service in the first quarter of 2022, pending certification.
We are delighted to offer this service to customers who have struggled to find capacity in the freight market and to offer an agile aircraft solution to meet customer needs. This decision will not only be a game-changer for Eastern, it will also transform the industry.
– Steve Harfst, President and CEO of Eastern Airlines
The planes will be installed in what Eastern calls an “Express Freighter” configuration. Most important in this configuration is a fully certified “Class-E” main deck. The fully insulated and fire-controlled layout will provide significant capacity for transporting goods around the world. Eastern says it will support “a full load of non-stop volumetric express freight between Asia and the United States.”
But it won’t be a cargo plane in the traditional sense.
Cargo, without the cargo door
The converted aircraft will not have a cargo door for the main deck. This is a consideration for “future derivative plans” of this type. Ditto for a palletized loading system.
Instead, the regular passenger door arrangement will be used for loading lighter “low density express freight” cargo on board.
By the second quarter of 2022, the company plans to have a main deck cargo loading system and “bespoke express ULDs” that will pass through regular cabin doors but load the aircraft more efficiently.
With the Class E designation, the space will be isolated from the crew. This allows for increased loads and some additional flexibility with respect to current “Combi COVID”Freight transport options in temporary refurbishment passenger cabins.
But this is not at all a traditional loading intended for the main deck.
Planning of lighter loads
Eastern indicates its intention to include types 777-200, -200ER and -300 in its Express Cargo layout. This will avoid the other two types of 777s which are already in high freight demand.
The –200LR, which is the same base chassis as Boeing used for new 777 delivery cargo ships, not mentioned in plans. Neither does the -300ER, which is in the middle of the initial conversion to freight service by IAI for the lessor GECAS.
Keeping the total cargo weight to a minimum will also be important to the company’s plans for the cargo line. As part of the 777-300ER conversion, IAI and GECAS expect the range to decrease by more than a third, from 7.370 nautical miles to 4,650 nautical miles. This is still enough to let the plane fly from Hong Kong to Anchorage with a full load or to Western Europe with a little payload restriction.
A similar reduction in range for Eastern feedstock, however, would significantly reduce cargo opportunities for aircraft. By not maximizing the weight on the main deck, the company can move lighter and more valuable cargo and maintain the network of roads necessary for efficient cargo operations. And the company expects the range to augment defects published by Boeing as a result of the design plans.
Make the changes
Securing the STC for the aircraft conversion will be handled by Foxtrot Aero, LLC. Virtually no public information is available on this company.
A job posting in Kansas City, MO calls it a wholly owned subsidiary of Eastern. It is not registered with the Missouri State Department. It also does not appear to be registered with the FAA as a repair station.
Comments from Eastern CEO Steve Harfst that the plans could “transform the industry” could also imply that the STC could possibly be used for other operators.
Learn more about the passenger cargo revolution of the past 18 months:
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