Canadian flag carrier, Air Canada, has announced the conversion of three of its passenger Boeing 777 aircraft to freighters. This comes as the coronavirus essentially puts an end to the majority of the carrier's passenger operations and enhances demand for cargo capacity.
Air Canada has reconfigured three Boeing 777-300ERs to cargo aircraft to cater to the growing demand. The three aircraft, which would normally have capacity for 422 passengers, will all soon have space to carry 89.63 tonnes of cargo. Air Canada says the first aircraft with the reconfigured cabin has been put into service, with the two remaining planes to be delivered shortly.
The aircraft reconfiguration does not enable normal cargo containers to be transported. Instead, the aircraft have evidently been converted for the transportation of medical supplies and/or parcel freight.
Richard Steer, Senior Vice President at Air Canada Operations said: "The rapid transformation of some of our aircraft to meet cargo demand reflects our ability to maximize our fleet assets quickly when these aircraft would otherwise be parked. Air Canada's engineering team worked around the clock to oversee the conversion work, and with Transport Canada to ensure all work was certified as tasks were completed. The next two aircraft are on track to be completed and will be in operation within the coming days."
The conversion is being performed by Avianor, an aircraft maintenance and cabin integration specialist, at its Montreal-Mirabel facility, according to Air Canada. The reconfiguration, which has been approved and certified by Transport Canada, takes approximately 6 days to complete.
Tim Strauss, Vice President of Cargo at Air Canada said: "Bringing critical medical and other vital supplies rapidly to Canada and helping distribute them across the country is imperative to combating the COVID-19 crisis. The transformation of the Boeing 777-300ERs, our largest international wide-body aircraft, doubles the capacity of each flight and will enable more goods to move more quickly."
Air Canada has to date operated 40 all-cargo flights with a further 20 being planned each week. These services have been operated by Air Canada aircraft which would normally be carrying passengers. As of yet, the airline has been flying cargo from Asia and Europe to Canada but it says that it continues to evaluate other possibilities.