Boeing’s state-of-the-art Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul (MRO) facility at London Gatwick Airport was completed just before the Covid-19 pandemic with a £100 million investment.
As well as providing heavy maintenance and essential MRO work, the facility now has a Boeing Converted Freighter (BCF) line used to turn 737-800 commercial aircraft into freighters to support the strong demand for air cargo.
The first aircraft inducted into London Gatwick’s BCF line will be delivered to Icelease, a Reykjavik-based leasing company.
Dublin-headquartered ASL Aviation Holdings, which in March announced an order for 20 additional BCFs, also plans to convert 737-800s at the facility.
The MRO facility is located near Boeing’s Gatwick Training Campus, a 4,900 square metre site where an additional 100 Boeing employees and nine full flight simulators are based, making it the company’s largest combined training centre outside the United States.
"As Boeing’s footprint in the Crawley area and around the country continues to grow, the launch of this exciting new line of work at our Gatwick facility demonstrates the key role the UK has to play in aviation and our ability to adapt to changing demands in the industry," said Sir Martin Donnelly, president of Boeing Europe and managing director of Boeing in the UK and Ireland.
"This is another step in Boeing’s expansion across the UK, with more than 2,600 employees and £2 billion spent every year in the country’s supply chain."
The BCF line at London Gatwick will convert 737-800 passenger aircraft to freighters alongside other MRO work at the facility. A freighter conversion involves replacing the passenger cabin with an interior capable of carrying cargo, as well as adding a large cargo door. Required scheduled maintenance checks are also completed alongside the modification.
"We are delighted to see Boeing beginning this exciting line of work at Gatwick that will see passenger aircraft converted into freighters,” said Stewart Wingate, Gatwick Airport’s CEO.
"While this won’t see an increase in the volume of cargo we handle at Gatwick, it’s fantastic news for the local job market and local economy that Boeing is choosing Gatwick as the base for this project.
"Our airport is returning to its pre-Covid levels and ready for a busy summer holiday season. Having Boeing get this long-awaited work up and running while integrating seamlessly into our operations is a testament to the cooperation and hard work from all sides."
Boeing forecasts 1,720 freighter conversions will be needed over the next 20 years to meet demand. Of those, 1,200 will be standard-body conversions, with nearly 20 per cent of that demand coming from European carriers.
The 737-800BCF is the standard body freighter market leader with more than 200 orders and commitments from more than 20 customers.
The 737-800BCF offers higher reliability, lower fuel consumption, lower operating costs per trip and world-class in-service technical support compared to other standard-body freighters.