GECAS, the leasing arm of General Electric, has today confirmed it is ahead of schedule on its Big Twin program. The company says it has reached the halfway point six months earlier than planned. Working with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the leasing company is converting a Boeing 777-300ER passenger aircraft into a freighter.
The Big Twin Program
The Big Twin program reached an important milestone this week as it passed the halfway point ahead of schedule. The Boeing 777-300ERSF is steaming ahead towards receiving the Supplemental Type Certificate (STC). The program can now begin making actual physical modifications to the aircraft, having now passed the Critical Design Review (CDR) and subsequent Design Freeze stage.
The leasing company is currently working on the new aircraft prototype, which is around six months ahead of the planned schedule. This marks the project’s halfway point, and we could see the new freighter enter service before the planned launch. Rich Greener, SVP and Manager of GECAS Cargo, commented,
“By leveraging our fleet of passenger aircraft to provide freighter conversion feedstock, we’re delivering on our strategy to meet the need for replacement of retiring freighters and increased demand for dedicated cargo capacity. We see the Big Twin meeting requirements of the air cargo industry for the next 20 years, so entering this next phase is thrilling.”
The process of certification
According to the Big Twin project’s official website, the Boeing 777-300ER is the most successful widebody variant in history, with over 850 already sold. The aircraft’s popularity, range, and performance led GECAS to partner with IAI to create the 777-300ERSF.
The first stages from a passenger-to-freighter conversion are rooted in the design and planning process. GECAS and IAI announced the program in December 2019.
Once planning and design have been accepted, working under the license from Boeing, the Big Twin team can start making modifications to the prototype. This includes adding a main deck cargo door and reinforcing the new floor structure to support 222,000 lbs MSP. The new freighter will also have a modified crew space, window plugs, reinforced fuselage, and a loading system, among other changes.
The prototype, registration N55 7CC (MSN 32789), was delivered to Tel Aviv in June of last year, already six months ahead of schedule. The aircraft has already performed several flights between the US and Israel and has now returned to Tel Aviv to begin the pre-conversion preparation phase. The aircraft will be official inducted into IAI 777-300ER P2f Line 1 in Tel Aviv in June.
When will the freighter launch?
In October 2020, the Big Twin program announced a launch customer for the freighter. US cargo airline Kalitta Air will be the launch customer for the new aircraft as soon as 2022. However, with the program ahead of schedule by at least six months and the demand for cargo remaining high, we could see the freighter in the sky earlier than expected.
What do you think of this passenger-to-freight conversion? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.