Bedek Aviation Group, the MRO and conversion specialist that is part of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), has expanded capacity to generate unlimited slots to support Amazon Prime Air’s operation in a limited time frame, a senior official told AIN on the eve of Farnborough Airshow.
“As of today, 75 percent of the Amazon Prime fleet is comprised of Bedek's cargo-converted aircraft,” said Yosef Melamed, the group’s executive vice president and general manager. Industry sources put the size of Amazon Air’s freighter fleet at 26 Boeing 767-300s as at June 30, with an average fleet age of 23.8 years and four aircraft planned or on order.
Bedek (Chalet A29) has a long history of developing aircraft conversions, together with its aircraft, engine, and component MRO businesses and has been serving the aviation industry since the early 1950s. The company is also a key element in the original creation of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
“Bedek has converted hundreds of aircraft during the last 35 years. Most of them are still operating, with no airworthiness directives issued concerning the conversion,” he said. “All conversions [are] designed and converted within IAI, using our highly skilled engineering force. The supplemental type certificates for the conversions are certified by the CAAI, FAA, EASA, CAAC, and other civil aviation authorities.”
In 2017, Bedek showed continuous growth in the conversions business, and performed a record number of 767-300, 747-400, and 737-700NG conversions. “Our conversion business growth carries on in 2018, as we expect to fill all our 767-300 and 737-700 conversion slots, and to certify the 737-800 conversion, which is expected during the third quarter of 2018,” he said.
In order to meet the market demand for cargo conversions, Bedek has also established remote conversion sites in Central America and China.
“As a world leader of cargo conversion in the past 35 years, Bedek’s strategic plan is to continue to develop cargo conversion for Boeing and Airbus platforms, and introduce them to the market when the time is right,” he said, likely a reference to Bedek’s mooted development of A320/A321-type[iv] conversions, understood to be the first variants in the OEM’s portfolio that Bedek will tackle.
In addition, Bedek’s capabilities include aircraft conversions to refueling airtankers.
“Most of our customers use the conversion grounding time to perform maintenance tasks, replacements of engines or landing gear, and avionics installations such as satcom [and] flat panel displays. The conversion does not require engine modification,” he said.
Melamed, who was appointed to his role in 2014, is responsible for both commercial aircraft MRO and conversions. Prior to this, he headed IAI’s Lahav Division, which carries out operational upgrades of fighter and trainer aircraft, for 10 years. He joined IAI in 1981, after concluding his service in the Israeli Air Force.
“In 2017, we were the first and only [center] to receive the 737-700NG cargo conversion certification, and now our focus is to complete 737-800 program development, expected during the third quarter. We are certain that this milestone will be reached as we use OEM development methods, which evolved through years of operation at our business-jet aircraft division.”
This division helped develop the Gulfstream G100, G150, G200, and G280. “The G280, alongside previous business-jet models, illustrates IAI’s strength and capability as an OEM to develop, certify, and deliver new aircraft models successfully and in line with market demand,” he said.
“Our main competitor in the medium-large segment is Boeing, Melamed said. "However Bedek managed to convert more than 75 percent of the 767 cargo fleet. On the small-aircraft segment, there are few other competitors, and our product shows high reliability and cost effectiveness to our satisfied customers.”