Eastern Airlines’ is looking to add 35 specially converted Boeing 777 passenger-converted freighters marking an operation bigger than initially thought.
The converted planes – dubbed the Eastern Express Freighter – will have seats removed like a typical “preighter” but will also offer a Class-E maindeck — which means that it will have the level of fire protection usually found in a freighter.
The plane will then be able to carry more types of cargo than a typical “preighter.”
The carrier is looking to put into service the first of these converted aircraft by the first quarter of 2022, pending approvals.
Eastern Airlines said it is looking to serve the fast-growing e-commerce market.
“Subject to STC approvals, the Eastern B777 Express Freighter will be a fully certified cargo aircraft with a ‘Class-E’ maindeck capable of carrying a full load of volumetric express cargo non-stop between Asia and the US,” Eastern Airlines said.
“The Eastern Express Freighter will not be subject to the restrictions on cargo commodities that are imposed on conventional passenger aircraft used as freighters,” it added. “The innovative design converts the maindeck cabin of the widebody B777, the -200, -200ER and -300 series, into a true cargo aircraft. This allows the entire volume of the maindeck cabin to hold low-density, express freight cargo.”
Eventually, the carrier is hoping to add a maindeck cargo door and a palletized loading system.
“This move is not just a game changer for Eastern, it will also transform the industry,” said Eastern Airlines president and chief executive Steve Harfst. “Our pioneering conversion method is tailored specifically to meet the needs of express package freight customers.”
Harst noted that the planes are “more efficient and cost effective” allowing the carrier to serve the needs of its customers at a competitive price.
The company first announced plans to start a freighter operation in September 2020 and earlier this year, said it will add two B-777s for cargo use.