WestJet Cargo pushes launch date due to certification delays with Boeing Converted Freighter

Avatar for Skies MagazineBy Skies Magazine | November 23, 2022

Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 59 seconds.

The launch of WestJet Cargo, a new service that was first announced in June 2021, has been pushed back by nine months due to aircraft certification delays with Transport Canada.

The airline has committed to utilizing 737-800 Boeing Converted Freighters (BCFs) as WestJet Cargo’s dedicated fleet. However, Canadian approval for the design changes required to convert used passenger 737-800s into the BCF configuration has not yet been granted.

WestJet’s new cargo service, WestJet Cargo, will operate 737-800 Boeing Converted Freighters. WestJet Image

Calgary-based WestJet was hoping that two of its freighter-converted aircraft would enter service in July 2022. In fact, there are currently four BCF jets sitting at Calgary International Airport, unable to fly until certification is achieved. The 737-800s are being leased by WestJet from BBAM Aircraft Leasing & Management.

Kristin de Bruijn, executive vice president of cargo, recently shared that the airline now expects to commence WestJet Cargo operations on March 26, 2023, ahead of the busy summer season.

“The certification didn’t go as planned, and we had different expectations about the duration of the certification,” said de Bruijn.

Essentially, Transport Canada is taking a close look at the structural modification required for the passenger to freighter conversion; it includes the installation of a wide cargo door, as well as reinforced flooring to support containers. Once Transport Canada gives its approval, WestJet can add the 737-800BCFs to its air operator certificate. However, the aircraft will not be able to officially enter service until tests are conducted and technical acceptance and validation are complete.

The 737-800BCF also features more advanced CFM engines, an increased range of 2,570 nautical miles, and 12 main deck pallet positions.

Since Boeing owns the type certificate for the 737-800BCF, it is unable to get a supplemental type certificate for the design changes. Instead, the OEM must modify the type of certificate through a service bulletin.

However, industry sources suggest that Boeing’s products and processes are being more carefully evaluated by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration ever since the grounding of the 737 Max, and recent 787 fuselage troubles. The FAA wants Boeing’s aircraft in a “service-ready” state before the certification process can begin — which was not necessarily the case in the past. Transport Canada is also taking a cautious approach to ensure Boeing does not cut any corners.

New Dedicated Service

WestJet launched its cargo service at a time when air cargo demand is incredibly strong. In fact, Boeing recently forecasted that air cargo traffic will double in the next 20 years.

The airline currently utilizes its passenger aircraft and commercial routes for cargo shipments, and will have to continue doing so for at least the next nine months. WestJet launched its cargo service to add additional frequency and “be able to plan new, customized routes . . . based on the needs of our cargo customers,” the airline said in a press release.

Once operational, WestJet’s 737-800BCFs will work in tandem with the airline’s existing 737 passenger aircraft.

“WestJet Cargo’s ability to ship on dedicated freighters or in the cargo hold on commercial routes provides cargo customers with increased reliability, flexibility, and capacity to transport their diverse shipments to their chosen destination,” the airline said. 

Notice a spelling mistake or typo?

Click on the button below to send an email to our team and we will get to it as soon as possible.

Report an error or typo

Have a story idea you would like to suggest?

Click on the button below to send an email to our team and we will get to it as soon as possible.

Suggest a story

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.