Control Tower at the Dubai Airshow 2021 at Dubai World Central on Sunday, 14th November 2021. Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is looking to sign freight conversion deals with other UAE-based airlines after launching a partnership with Abu Dhabi’s Etihad airways earlier this year.

In August, Etihad Engineering signed a strategic partnership with the Israeli aerospace firm to set up a facility in Abu Dhabi that will convert Boeing 777-300ER passenger planes into cargo aircraft.

“We look forward to doing business with the companies here – the airlines here operate the biggest fleets in the world,” said Rafi Matalon, IAI’s aviation group vice-president of marketing. “At the moment, we have the green light to go and to start discussions with companies”

Referencing the deal with Etihad, Matalon said IAI was on the lookout for a long-term partner with experience in the 777 aircraft. Etihad Engineering had “all the capabilities and the infrastructure” for the freight conversion unit, he added.

Cargo boom

High cargo demand and buoyant rates, due to the absence of passenger belly-hold capacity, are driving the freighter modification market.

Matalon said that it didn’t make sense for airlines to spend “millions of dollars” on ageing aircraft. They should “invest in conversion which would bring them a source of revenue for additional 16 years,” he added.

In the meantime, competition in the freight market is heating up with Boeing in discussions to sell a cargo version of its future 777X jet. European rival Airbus is also expecting to strike an A350 freighter deal soon.

“There will be airlines that buy new aircraft, but we are giving them the same value, but even better,” said Matalon.

First time

This is Israel’s first time participating in the Dubai Airshow and a year after the Abraham Accords. “It was my dream to participate in the Dubai airshow – it has finally become a reality,” said Matalon.

This year’s event, which is expected to pull in 85,000 visitors, will have more than 1,200 exhibitors from 148 countries, displaying over 160 aircraft. It will also include a host of free-to-attend conferences featuring more than 250 industry experts who will share insights and trends across nine areas of expertise including cargo, sustainability, technology and space, among others.