Since 2007 five combi 737-400s have been moving passengers and cargo for Alaska Airlines. These combi aircraft have space for 72 passengers in the back half of the aircraft, while carrying 6,000 pounds of cargo, often seafood, in the front. The aircraft fly in the vast state of Alaska, and to Seattle in the lower-48 states.
Now, the Alaska Dispatch News reports that the five combi aircraft, which replaced several 737-200s, will be phased out, to be replaced with three 737-700s, which will be converted from all-passenger planes to freighters. This is part of a plan to phase out all 26 of the 737-400s in Alaska’s fleet in order to move into more fuel-efficient aircraft.
The work to convert the three 700s to freighters will begin in February 2016. According to our sister publication Cargo Facts, the conversion will be done by Bedek Aviation Group, the MRO and conversion arm of Israel Aerospace Industries. This is IAI’s launch customer for the 737-700BDSF program. When completed, the freighter will offer eight full-size pallet positions plus two smaller positions.
Halley Knigge, a spokeswoman for Alaska Airlines said the change is intended to better serve the cargo needs of rural communities in Alaska. Alaska’s senior vice president of communications, Joe Sprague said that the move is “an opportunity to step up our game from a cargo standpoint.” Knigge said the plan is to phase out the combi aircraft by 2017. The combi flights currently operate among Anchorage, Ketchikan, Kotzebue, Bethel, Juneau, Sitka, Nome and Seattle.
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