Sacramento - The first Boeing 737-800 converted by Boeing into a cargo plane is currently conducting flight tests.

On December 19, The American aircraft manufacturer shared photos of the aircraft operating in Victorville, California on its Twitter account. It is a 737-800 owned by the leasing company GECAS, commissioned in 2004 and flown in the colors of many companies including Ryanair, Primera Air, and Sunwing. Once the tests are completed, GECAS will deliver the aircraft to the freighter operator West Atlantic Airlines.

Boeing launched the BCF (Boeing Converted Freighter) program in February 2016 with 30 firm orders, 5 from GECAS, and 25 purchase commitments from several operators. The company announced the first delivery in the fourth quarter of 2017.

By converting 737-800s into cargo aircraft, the manufacturer aims to extend the life of this model that is produced and sold only in the passenger version. The 737-800 NG is the first type of 737 NG family to benefit from the BCF program.

Boeing 737-800BCF
Boeing 737-800BCF

The modifications include the installation of a large cargo door on the main deck to load the pallets. The aircraft also receives a cargo handling system and interior layout to accommodate up to four passengers.

According to Boeing, the 737-800BCF carries up to 23.9 tons of cargo over a distance of up to 2293 NM (3,690 kilometers). Twelve pallets (11 standard pallets and one half pallet) represent a loading volume of 141.5 cubic meters on the main deck. This capacity will be complemented by two compartments located in the lower lobe of the aircraft, which together offer a volume of more than 43.7 cubic meters.

737BCF Cutaway
737BCF Cutaway

Boeing plans to convert B737-800s in some facilities close to customers such as Shanghai. A logical choice since the most orders should come from Chinese companies.

The US aircraft manufacturer predicts that over the next 20 years, more than 1,000 737BCF will be offered to China's domestic air cargo companies, accounting for nearly a third of the total market.

The 737-800BCF is intended in particular for the market of express freight whose growth is parallel to the development of the online commerce.

In addition to Boeing, Miami-based Aeronautical Engineers Inc. (AEI) has launched a 737-800 conversion program in 2015.