DHL prepares three 767 passenger planes for freight operations

Updated June 22, 2020, 6:50 P.M. ET

German express carrier DHL has contracted with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to convert three Boeing 767-300 passenger planes to all-cargo configuration.

The contract, which IAI stated is valued in the “tens of millions of dollars,” also includes an option for DHL to have IAI convert a fourth 767-300 to freighter service.

DHL has reserved the passenger planes under a contract with an unspecified provider and will be delivered closer to their conversion slots, DHL spokesman Tim Rekkopf said.

IAI is scheduled to induct the first plane in July, with the other two arriving in November and February. DHL expects the planes to enter service about six months after the retrofit is complete to allow for painting and other maintenance tasks.

IAI spun off its commercial aviation group in 2019, although the Tel Aviv-based company has been converting Boeing passenger planes to freighters for years.

“The constant increase in the e-commerce market and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have emphasized the importance of cargo aircraft,” said Yossi Melamed, IAI Aviation Group’s general manager, in a statement.

DHL, part of German logistics conglomerate Deutsche Post DHL Group (OTCMKTS: DPSGY), has continued to expand its freighter fleet in recent years. The company operates more than 260 aircraft with 17 partner airlines on more than 3,000 daily flights.

In February, DHL received the first of six new Boeing 777-200 freighters scheduled for delivery this year. The company ordered 14 777Fs in 2018, with four delivered last year and another four coming in 2021.

In early April, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Civil Aviation Authority of Israel certified IAI’s design for converting the Boeing B737-800 aircraft from passenger to cargo configuration. The company recently delivered the first two of these converted aircraft.

Earlier this month, IAI signed a contract with GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) to perform the first-time conversion of a Boeing 777-300 from passenger to cargo service, including applying to obtain the necessary certificates of airworthiness from aviation authorities.

(Click for more American Shipper/FreightWaves articles by Chris Gillis.)