Air Canada is boosting its cargo capabilities with some creativity in the passenger cabin of its 777-300ER aircraft. Three of the planes, the largest in the carrier’s fleet, no longer have economy class seats on board. Instead the large space will be used to increase cargo carrying capacity on board.
Bringing critical medical and other vital supplies rapidly to Canada and helping distribute them across the country is imperative to combating the COVID-19 crisis. The transformation of the Boeing 777-300ERs, our largest international wide-body aircraft, doubles the capacity of each flight and will enable more goods to move more quickly.– Tim Strauss, Vice President – Cargo at Air Canada
The reconfiguration plan was developed, implemented and certified in just six days. The carrier partnered with Avianor, an aircraft maintenance and cabin integration specialist, at its Montreal-Mirabel facility. Avianor developed a specific engineering solution to remove 422 passenger seats and designate cargo loading zones for light weight boxes containing medical equipment and restrained with cargo nets. All of the changes received approval from Transport Canada.
The first of the reconfigured aircraft reentered service this week. Another two are undergoing retrofit now and will soon return to service.
Loading cargo on the main deck is a very different process than in the belly. The goods are not in containers, for one thing. Also, the main deck floor has different weight load limits than the belly. Smart engineering helps address these issues.
Specific areas on the floor are marked for the loading of boxes and weight limits are strictly enforced. The goods are secured with netting to ensure the boxes do not shift in flight.
The conversion doubles the aircraft capacity for time-sensitive shipments, including urgent medical supplies. Masks and other personal protective equipment is light enough to fly in the cabin and with the new layout even more can be carried on each flight.
Air Canada has operated 40 cargo-only flights since 22 March and plans 20 per week going forward. The cargo plans include scheduled flights to London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Hong Kong. Ad hoc services to other destinations can also be arranged to support the medical supply chain.
The rapid transformation of some of our aircraft to meet cargo demand reflects our ability to maximize our fleet assets quickly when these aircraft would otherwise be parked. Air Canada’s engineering team worked around the clock to oversee the conversion work, and with Transport Canada to ensure all work was certified as tasks were completed. The next two aircraft are on track to be completed and will be in operation within the coming days.– Richard Steer, Senior Vice President – Air Canada Operations
For a (generally) up-to-date listing of airlines and their operational levels check out this spreadsheet maintained by PaxEx.Aero and other industry experts.
More on COVID-19 and the airlines affected
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