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Quebec-based airline Air Inuit announced on Oct. 25 an order with Aeronautical Engineers, Inc. (AEI) for three AEI B737-800SF freighter conversions, as part of its fleet modernization efforts.
The airline, which serves the Nunavik region of Quebec and beyond, first announced its intent to purchase three Boeing Next-Generation 737-800s in July in order to better serve its passengers and “deliver essential cargo to the communities we serve,” said Christian Busch, president and CEO of Air Inuit.
The 737-800SFs will ultimately replace Air Inuit’s aging fleet of five 737-200s that are currently in service. In addition to the -200s, the airline operates the 737-300 (combi), Dash 8-300 (combi and cargo), Dash 8-100 (combi), Twin Otter 300, and King Air 350 — for a total of 31 aircraft including the 737-200s.
In addition to enabling the airline to better serve its customers, Busch noted that acquiring more modern 737-800 aircraft “also supports our airline’s goal of reducing carbon emissions and doing our part in the fight against climate change.”
Once the 737-800s are brought online, and the -200s are phased out, Air Inuit expects to reduce its fuel emissions by nearly 40 per cent.
According to AEI, two of the three new 737-800s are to be converted as combi aircraft — set to be the first B738 combis in the world. The first aircraft (serial number MSN 40852) is scheduled to undergo modifications starting in November this year, and will be redelivered in late March 2024. The second 737-800 is slated to begin modifications in March 2024, followed by the third aircraft in July 2024.
KF Aerospace in Kelowna, B.C. — an authorized AEI Conversion Center — will handle the touch labour and maintenance of the aircraft. (AEI noted that it remains the only conversion company with the capability to modify any line number 737-800 aircraft. This includes the three aircraft for Air Inuit, all of which were manufactured in 2012.)
“We are honored that Air Inuit has selected the AEI B737-800SF freighter and combi as part of their fleet modernization plans,” said Robert T. Convey, AEI senior vice-president of sales and marketing. “We welcome Air Inuit to the AEI family of customers and look forward to a successful relationship.”
The AEI converted B737-800SF freighter boasts a main deck payload of up to 52,700 pounds (23,904 kilograms) and features 11 full-height container positions measuring 88 inches by 125 inches, along with an extra slot for an AEP/AEH. The conversion integrates new floor beams behind the wing box and a generously sized 86-inch by 137-inch main cargo door featuring a single vent door system.
AEI said its design allows containers to be loaded 16.5 inches behind the forward door jamb, “ensuring ground operators have sufficient manoeuvring room which minimizes potential door and aircraft strikes,” the company said.
Further, the AEI B737-800SF includes a flexible Ancra Cargo Loading System, a 9g barrier, five supernumerary seats as standard, a galley, and a full lavatory.
Air Inuit, which is celebrating 45 years of service this year, has said that in order to enable both its fleet modernization project and growth in the regions it serves, substantial investments by the government are necessary to upgrade Nunavik’s airstrips.
In July, the airline said active discussions were underway with stakeholders to ensure the plan aligned with the priorities of community members. Air Inuit said it would provide further details on developments in the coming months, though no new updates had been shared at the time of writing.