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Boeing & GMR Partner in Freighter Conversion Enterprise

New Hyderabad, India Facility Announced

U.S. aerospace titan Boeing has partnered with India's GMR Aero Technic—an Airframe Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul (MRO) facility at Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (HYD)—for purpose of establishing an Indian in-country facility at which passenger aircraft will be converted to freighters. The enterprise speaks to the surging global demand for cargo occasioned, in part, by online commerce.

Boeing chief strategy officer Marc Allen set forth that the facility will add to Boeing's $1-billion supply chain sourcing from India and advance the South Asian nation’s ambition to become a global cargo hub. Mr. Allen provided no details pertaining to when the retrofit facility will be set up or to the size of Boeing’s investment in the endeavor.

Speaking at a New Delhi press conference, Boeing India president Salil Gupte  asserted growing e-commerce demand and the manufacturing of smartphones and other electronics for both Indian domestic and international use have strengthened the outlook for freighters, stating: “Our cooperation with GMR Aero Technic is not only a testimony of the maturation of Indian MROs in the country to support the vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat [a Hindi term meaning Self-Reliant India], but also supports the anticipated growth of the cargo sector in the region.”

Mr. Gupte further stated global demand exists to convert more than 1,700 passenger aircraft—including six-hundred jets currently operating in Asia—into freighters over the next two decades.

GMR Aerotechnic CEO Ashok Gopinath reported that the rapid expansion of India’s airline fleets has engendered dramatic growth in the country’s MRO sector. Mr. Gopinath remarked that the establishment of a local freighter conversion facility aligns with his country’s Make in India policy—a priority of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

Boeing has yet to disclose what aircraft models will be converted at the inchoate Hyderabad facility. However, an image of a Boeing 737-800—an aircraft frequently converted to various freighter configurations—served as the backdrop for the enterprise’s executive signing ceremony.

Data compiled by Cirium aviation analytics indicates India’s in-service cargo fleet comprises 14 main-deck freighter aircraft. The nation’s largest air-freight carrier is Blue Dart Aviation, which operates six 757-200PCFs—the flagship of Boeing licensee Precision Conversion LLC. SpiceJet operates three 737-700BDSF—a freighter conversion offered by Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd (IAI). Quikjet operates two 737-800BCFs (Boeing Converted Freighters). IndiGo operates two Airbus A321P2Fs (Airbus’s Passenger to Freight conversion). Finally, Pradhaan Air Express operates a single Airbus A320P2F aircraft.

According to Boeing's commercial market outlook, growth in India's air-cargo sector—driven by the country's manufacturing and e-commerce sectors and the Make in India initiative—is expected to average 6.3-percent annually. Ergo, Boeing forecasts demand for some eighty production and converted freighters by 2041.

Boeing, which recently moved its headquarters from Chicago to Arlington, Virginia, has stepped up its focus on India, announcing in early 2023 that it would invest $24-billion in the establishment of an Indian logistics center for airplane parts. Boeing’s enthusiasm for the subcontinent is bolstered by Indian state carrier Air India’s record February 2023 order for 220 Boeing aircraft worth an estimated $34-billion.



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