Aircraft manufacturing major Boeing has announced an agreement with GMR Aero Technic to set up a Boeing Converted Freighter (BCF) line in Hyderabad. Without disclosing the investment into the initiative, the company said it is optimistic about cargo demand in the country, with several airlines as well as start-ups in the sector already scouting for freight aircraft.

On the timeline for the rollout of the first freighter, Boeing said it will depend on demand, while also mentioning that it will tap the African as well as South East Asian markets from the Hyderabad unit. Under freight conversion, a mid-life asset, or a used aircraft, is converted into a freighter.

"Our teams are in talks with all the major airlines and start-ups in the cargo segment in India. Cargo companies are seeing the growth potential in the space in the country. Our call to set up a freight conversion line. Our goal is region specific. It is not particularly India, but India and beyond. It does not include any hard boundaries per se, but you can expect that it includes potentially Africa and South East Asia," said Salil Gupte, president, Boeing India.

Gupte added that the potential customers are airlines themselves, cargo companies and leasing companies, which would convert the aircraft and lease it for freight operations. "This aircraft does not exist as a dedicated freighter. There is no narrow body 737 freighter. Within India, several carriers have already taken up freighter conversion. Spicejet has taken this class of plane. Quick jet operating for Amazon has taken this class of plane. IndiGo has taken the narrow body freighters. We know that there is going to be demand for this plane," Gupte added.

GMR Aero Technic is the first Boeing supplier in India that will have the capability to support future conversions of both domestic and foreign aircraft. 

Speaking on this agreement, Ashok Gopinath, CEO, GMR Aero Technic, said, "With the rise in the Indian aviation industry, MRO services in India has been one of the fastest-growing market globally. The collaboration with Boeing reaffirms our capability to provide world-class MRO services and further contribute to the 'Make in India' initiative."

According to Boeing's Commercial Market Outlook, India's air cargo growth is expected to average 6.3% annually, driven by the country's manufacturing and e-commerce sectors, including its Make in India initiative. Boeing forecasts demand for more than 75 freighters, including production and converted freighters.

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