Qantas has been forced to ground four out of their five Boeing 737 Freighters, after receiving a warning about a potential defective cabin component.
According to Reuters who first reported the news, Qantas is awaiting information from Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) about the identification of a faulty component in the cabin.
IAI performed the passenger to freighter conversion on the Boeing 737-300s in 2006, the aircraft now have an average age of 33 years old.
Although IAI has declined to comment on the situation, Qantas said that the problematic part is a rigid barrier at the front of the cargo cabin; this provides greater separation between the pilots and the cargo loaded on board the main deck.
Since the part was installed during the passenger to freighter conversion process it is not a critical flight system, however the grounding is part of a precautionary measure.
The grounding comes during the most critical time of the year for freight transport, especially in Australia, where large quantities of international freight need to be sent out on domestic routes.
Despite this, Qantas doesn’t expect any delays in freight transport; they can lease freight capacity from other airlines and utilise cargo space on commercial flights.
Qantas operates their Boeing 737-300 on Australian domestic routes and has the ability to load 17,340 kilograms of freight, using the 8AAA/1AGP unit load configuration (ULD).
Recently Qantas became the launch customer for the Airbus A321 Passenger to Freighter (A321P2F) as part of an extended partnership with Australia Post.
From October 2020 Qantas will introduce up to three A321P2F aircraft to boost their cargo capacity on domestic routes, whilst operating more efficiently.
Compared to their existing fleet of Boeing 737-300 Freighters, the A321P2F can carry about 50 percent more cargo; this equates to around nine extra tonnes.
Qantas also recently took delivery of their first of two Boeing 747-8 Freighters to be operated by Atlas Air. These aircraft will be used to increase their international freight carrying capacity.
Set to replace their Boeing 747-400 Freighters, the new -8F variant will be able to carry 130,000 kilograms of freight; depending on weather and cargo volume – a 20 percent increase.
Whether Qantas is able to get their Boeing 737-300 Freighters up and running before the end of 2019, or even before Christmas, is dependant on IAIs ability to provide a solution and how long the problem will take to resolve.