Air India to convert Boeing 747-400s into cargo freighters

Air India to convert Boeing 747-400s into cargo freighters

Mumbai: State-run carrier Air India plans to convert all its Boeing 747-400s into cargo jets in a phased manner and place orders for new, large aircraft to replace them after 2011.

Indicating this, Air India’s Chairman, V Thulasidas, told PTI here that the yet-to-be-ordered large aircraft would either be the double-decker Airbus A-380 or Boeing 747-8.

Air India, which is now expanding its fleet by getting 111 Boeing and Airbus aircraft for domestic and international operations, may consider acquiring at least 60 more aircraft for its expansion beyond 2011.

The present order of 68 Boeing and 43 Airbus aircraft would be completed by 2011, Thulasidas said, adding the fresh order would have to be placed within the next six months to ensure that deliveries start from 2011-2016.

As both Airbus and Boeing are fully booked for the next 3-4 years, “we will have to place orders in 6-months," he said, adding “the exercise is on".

However, no final decision has yet been taken on the number of aircraft nor on purchase of the Airbus A-380. But unlike last time, “we will certainly go in for large aircraft this time," he said.

“After due diligence and a decision on the types and number of aircraft, the Board will have to approve the decision before we send it to the Civil Aviation Ministry for its approval," the Air India chief said.

Air India, which had 16 Boeing 747s, is curently operating 12 of them as it has phased out all the Boeing 747-200s. By March, it would be phasing out two more Boeing 747-300s. Currently, it operates eight Boeing 747-400s of which six are owned and two are leased.

On air cargo, Thulasidas said that the response has been encouraging and Air India now plans to make Nagpur as its cargo hub for both domestic and international operations.

Air India, which has already converted two of its four Airbus 300s and two of its five Boeing 737-200s into freighters, will start air cargo service from six metros beginning mid-next year.

By then, Air India would have four Airbus 300 and five Boeing 737-200 freighter aircraft, Thulasidas said.

The air cargo will originate from the six metros--Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, which would converge at Nagpur from where international cargo will also be despatched using Airbus 300s, he said.

For domestic cargo operations, Boeing 737-200s will be utilised. With the growing demand for cargo, Air India may also look at leasing aircraft for cargo service besides going in for new cargo aircraft, he said.

Boeing manufactures 747, 777 and 767 cargo aircraft while Airbus makes A-330 aircraft, he said, adding that Air India would consider all these aircraft for its cargo service.

Air India is the only air-carrier to start cargo service in India. Among the leading international airlines, Lufthansa, Emirates, Korean Airlines and Singapore Airlines run regular, full-fledged air-cargo services.