As the Paris show opened, Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) announced a significant boost to the 747-400 freighter conversion program conducted by its subsidiary, Bedek Aviation Group. Rabobank of the Netherlands has become the first customer to choose Bedek for a full passenger-to-freighter conversion, with an order for two. Aviation International News understands that these aircraft are Singapore Airlines airliners that are already financed by Rabobank and will be leased to Air Atlanta Icelandic after conversion.
IAI also revealed that Asiana Airlines has signed a contract with Bedek to convert three 747-400 Combi aircraft into full freighters, with an option for three more. The Israeli 747-400 freighter program was first launched when Guggenheim Partners signed up for the conversion of two former Air Canada -400 Combis and subsequent use by Air China Cargo. The first of these conversions has yet to fly, but in respect of the newly announced full passenger-to-freighter order, Rabobank executive vice president Ron van der Velde noted that his company “benefits from having the first B747-400 special freighters available in the market.”
It seems, therefore, that IAI is throwing down a challenge to Boeing, which launched its own 747-400 passenger-to-freighter conversion program 18 months ago. The Boeing program has attracted 31 orders to date, from seven customers. The first Boeing conversion is now under way at Taeco’s Xiamen facility in China.