Interview: GAMECO’s Nobert Marx explains how the freight boom has created a window of opportunity
Guangzhou Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Company (GAMECO) has shifted its business model towards passenger-to-freighter conversions, in response to operators wanting more freighter aircraft.
Nobert Marx, CEO of GAMECO, tells Smart Aviation Asia-Pacific that the company is now primarily focused on passenger-to-cargo conversions. GAMECO has a dedicated division and teams of people to ensure a more organized and stable workflow, he adds.
He says GAMECO ramped up its passenger-to-cargo conversion business even before COVID-19, as the company saw the demand for air cargo increasing due to the growth of e-commerce which relies on air cargo to fast delivery.
“The increase in online orders is certainly an important driver of demand for cargo aircraft. In addition, the classic Boeing 737 and the Boeing 757 were aging, and there were no Airbus options on the market yet or of 737NG options, at that time, we therefore saw that there would be a strong demand on the type change services”, he specifies.
When the pandemic hit, that demand accelerated like crazy, Marx says, adding that with fewer international flights, widebody aircraft entering for MRO services have dwindled, giving GAMECO additional space for passenger conversions. in freighters.
“We see this is a real window of opportunity for us to build the business for the future, so we have also bundled the conversions with a maintenance package. This means we are doing the converted aircraft for our customers and that we also continue to maintain the aircraft for them, such as landing gear and other components,” he explains.
He says the company has three 737 conversion lines — nose to tail — operating in parallel, which can deliver 12,737 freighters a year.
“On the Boeing 767 side, we have just started the first conversion line and the second conversion line will be ramped up in the middle of this year, allowing us to deliver seven 767 freighters per year,” he adds.
“The conversions we do include cutting… the fuselage [so the large cargo door can be installed] and reinforcing the floor, which is a big modification, and it’s different from those planes that fly cargo on days off when there are no passengers,” he says, referring to the fact that GAMECO converts aircraft into dedicated freighters.
Marx says GAMECO recently opened a third hangar which increases the scale of its operations.
“We planned this new hangar [in May 2019] before the pandemic…as the demand for widebody slots from China Southern and third parties exceeded the capacity we have in our other two hangars, which totaled around 20 lines. With the new addition, another 11 lines will be put into service,” he says.
Marx adds that the company has a dedicated paint shop that can accommodate aircraft as large as the Airbus A380.
Looking ahead, he says there is a good window of around five years in the passenger-to-cargo conversion market.
“Short-term freight is in high demand at the moment, with rising rates and many projects. But after that, we will have to re-evaluate if the demand will drop in the long term, because the demand will not continue to grow at such a rapid rate, ”he adds.
Another factor is that cargo space for passenger aircraft will eventually come, once this market recovers, which will effectively add more cargo carrying capacity to the market which will then be in competition with freighter operators dedicated.
Marx says that MRO companies used to see the passenger-to-cargo conversion business as a job that helped keep the MRO organization busy and fill jobs, but with the rise of freight business, thanks to e-commerce , it has become more important.
He says that once travel restrictions are eased, international travel will resume and there will be more passenger planes for MRO, so in the end, conversion services and MRO services could balance each other out.
GAMECO’s featured photo shows the company’s new hangar.
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