Ethiopian Airlines Sets Up Boeing 767 Freighter Conversion Site

Ethiopian Airlines, or more precisely, the Ethiopian Airlines Group, is establishing a cargo conversion program at its facilities in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This move, announced on Thursday, August 19th, will be made possible through a collaboration with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

Ethiopian 767-300ER
The first aircraft to be converted at the new facility will be Ethiopian Airlines’ own Boeing 767-300ERs. Photo: Joren de Grof via Wikimedia Commons 

Converting 767-300

Working with IAI, the Ethiopian Airlines Group will establish a 767-300ER passenger-to-freighter conversion program. Commenting on the exciting news, Ethiopian Airlines Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam, said:

‘’…we have been increasing our cargo capacity in fleet, ground service infrastructure and cargo connectivity network. Accordingly, we are partnering with IAI, one of the global technology leaders in the Aerospace industry, in building a cargo conversion center in our MRO facilities in Addis Ababa Airport.”

GebreMariam adds that this conversion center will begin by converting three Ethiopian Airlines-owned 767-300s.

Data from notes that the airline indeed operates three Boeing 767-300s. These have an average age of 17 years. Interestingly, one of these jets, ET-ALJ, operates for the United Nations. Thus, if this jet is to be converted, it leaves us with questions about how its removal from service will impact UN operations. Simple Flying has inquired with the airline about this. However, no response was received at the time of publication.

Ethiopian 777
Ethiopian Airlines has a total of nine Boeing 777Fs and three 737-800Fs in its fleet. At this point, it is unknown if the Ethiopian-owned 767s converted will remain with the airline or be sold off.

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IAI’s continued worldwide expansion

Of course, the hope is that this facility will cater to more than just Ethiopian Airlines-owned jets. Indeed, the company says that this Addis Ababa facility will “expand its services to all airlines in Africa and the wider region.”

“We are witnessing a sharp rise in the demand for cargo aircraft as a result of the rise in e-commerce, which has peaked to record levels during the COVID-19 pandemic…we are constantly receiving requests to open such conversion centers in more and more locations around the world.” – Yossi Melamed, Executive VP and General Manager, IAI

Rouge B767
Capitalizing on the demand for cargo services over the course of the global health crisis, Air Canada’s Boeing 767s are undergoing conversion. These jets will be converted by IAI. Photo: Air Canada

Interestingly, this is the second international facility launch announcement by IAI, highlighting its ambitions for global reach. 

The firm already operates at its campus at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, as well as one facility in Mexico and two in China. However, it announced another facility in July. Indeed, IAI agreed to establish a passenger-to-freighter conversion site in Naples, Italy, with Atitech. This site will focus on converting Boeing 737-700s and -800s to freighters.

What do you think of this move? Will there be enough future demand for freighters in the future or do you think this will slow down with the recovery of passenger flights and belly-hold capacity? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment.