Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Etihad Engineering have signed a strategic partnership to establish a facility in Abu Dhabi converting Boeing 777-300ER passenger planes into cargo aircraft.

The new facility, which will operate as the company’s maintenance centre in Abu Dhabi, will meet the growing demand for large cargo jets and become one the largest, most advanced facilities in the region. Demand for cargo plane conversions has been on the rise with the increase in ecommerce and decline in value of used planes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New freighters will offer “extensive cargo solutions”

Tony Douglas, chief executive of Etihad Aviation Group, said in a statement.”Not only do we see the demand, but we view it as a greener, more profitable, highly innovative solution for our airline customers, and an excellent way to drive value for our business.”

“The Boeing 777-300ERSF is not only extremely attractive to customers but a technological breakthrough, given that it’s the first in its size category to offer extensive cargo solutions. Not only do we see the demand, but we view it as a greener, more profitable, highly innovative solution for our airline customers, and an excellent way to drive value for our business.”

IAI, which is state owned, currently converts Boeing 737, 747 and 767 passenger aircraft for cargo use. It has said it is currently developing a conversion method for the Boeing 777 and expects to finish the licensing process in 2023.

Abraham Accords opening up business

The deal comes a year after Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed to normalise relations under the US-sponsored Abraham Accords and follows a number of previous agreements by Israeli firms within the UAE. In March, IAI announced the joint development of an advanced drone defence system with the UAE’s state-owned weapons maker EDGE.

Boaz Levy, President and CEO, Israel Aerospace Industries said, “The Abraham Accords have given IAI the opportunity to expand its global activity to the Gulf region. IAI is active in over 100 countries across the world. Establishing the conversion site in partnership with Etihad Engineering is a testament to IAI’s strong ties with the UAE and strengthens its foothold in the region. I am confident that this agreement will lead to many more partnerships with local companies in the Gulf States, which will grow our business in the region.”

Yossi Melamed, head of IAI’s Aviation Group, said the latest deal added a “significant tier to the relations between Israel and the Gulf States” adding that further agreements with companies in the region would “economically benefit all sides involved.”

Etihad Engineering is one of the largest commercial aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services providers in the Middle East, The facility will be certified by the UAE Civil Aviation Authority, the US Federal Aviation Administration, and the European Aviation Safety Agency. IAI already operates cargo conversion sites including at its headquarters at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv.

IAI signs agreement with Ethiopian Airlines

Israel Aerospace Industries has also signed an agreement with Ethiopian Airlines to open a new centre in Addis Ababa converting Boeing 767-300 into cargo planes. The new Ethiopian centre will join the company’s existing conversion centres at the Ben-Gurion Airport Campus and in Mexico.

The conversions are to take place in Ethiopian Airlines’ central maintenance centre in Addis Ababa, Africa’s largest and most advanced of its kind. The maintenance centre will conduct the actual conversion of the aircraft from passenger to cargo, and will also provide ongoing maintenance and renovation services.




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