Kalitta Air Signs Up To Be Boeing 777-300ERSF Launch Customer

The Boeing 777-300ERSF will be the American manufacturer’s latest development of its popular 777F freighter. What sets this model apart is the fact that the aircraft will not be newly built. Instead, they will be converted from retired 777-300ER passenger airliners. It has been announced today that American cargo airline Kalitta Air will be the type’s launch customer.

Kalitta Air, Boeing 777-300ERSF, Launch Customer
Kalitta Air will be the launch customer of the Boeing 777-300ERSF. Photo: GECAS

Conversion of older aircraft

The drop in passenger demand caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has seen several grounded aircraft be temporarily converted to be operated as ‘preighters.’ However, such a concept has, in fact, been in the pipeline since before COVID-19 hit.

In a press release published in October 2019, GECAS (General Electric Capital Aviation Services) and IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries) announced the launch of the Boeing 777-300ERSF program. Utilizing retired Boeing 777-300ER passenger airliners, the program will see the otherwise redundant aircraft be converted to specialist freighters.

The ERSF suffix stands for “Extended Range Special Freighter.” The type will be known colloquially as ‘The Big Twin.’ This nickname pays tribute to the fact that the aircraft will be the world’s “largest-ever twin-engine freighter.”

Kalitta Air, Boeing 777-300ERSF, Launch Customer
The airline will lease three of the aircraft from GECAS Cargo. Photo: GECAS

Next-generation cargo aircraft

In the aforementioned press release, GECAS states a number of the advantages of the Boeing 777-300ERSF that render it the freighter of the future. It states that:

“The Big Twin will offer operators 25% more capacity than today’s smaller twin-engined long-haul freighters, and it is anticipated that the Big Twin will achieve up to 21% lower fuel-burn per tonne than ageing 4-engine freighters.”

The economics of the type are said to be “best in class.” The 777-300ERSF will also offer operators “superb range” and “outstanding flexible freighter capabilities.”

Launched with Kalitta Air

Kalitta Air is a cargo airline based in the USA. Its fleet, according to Planespotters.net, is presently made up of 38 Boeing freighters. The specific breakdown by type is as follows:

The airline is notable for being one of only a handful of operators still operating the Boeing 747 despite the current crisis. In fact, Planespotters.net states that none of its fleet are currently grounded. However, the carrier operates a relatively old fleet, with an average age of over 22 years. As such, it is looking to invest in next-generation cargo aircraft.

The Boeing 747F is an iconic aircraft. However, it also represents some of the oldest aircraft in Kalitta Air’s fleet. Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

According to Airways Magazine, Kalitta will take delivery of three converted Boeing 777-300ERSF freighters in 2023. The airline’s owner, Conrad Kalitta, is full of optimism for the airline’s future with the type, stating:

“Providing air express delivery all around the world for virtually any type of freight, the adition of these three 777-300ERSF freighters will help us meet the needs of our customers.”

A growing market

With the development of the 777-300ERSF, Boeing is looking to take further strides into the converted freighter market. As Simple Flying reported last month, it is also opening two new conversion lines in Asia for 737-800 and 767-300 passenger aircraft.

Under the current circumstances, it is tricky to predict how the airline industry will develop over the coming years. However, as airlines increasingly look to streamline their fleets, there may well be a surplus of retired aircraft available for such conversion in the near future. It will certainly be fascinating to see how many can enjoy a second lease of life as freighters.

Do you expect to see more passenger aircraft converted to freighters in years to come? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.


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