On the heels of Australian carrier Qantas Airways grounding its fleet of 737-300 freighters, as reported Wednesday by our sister publication Cargo Facts, Seattle-based Alaska Air Cargo has grounded its own fleet of three 737-700 freighters for the same issue—an “apparent irregularity” in the rigid barrier system of some Israel Aerospace Industries converted freighters.
Alaska Air Cargo’s managing director, Torque Zubeck, previously told Air Cargo World that its three freighters are heavily engaged in intra-Alaska operations. A forwarder that ships freight to and within the state of Alaska confirmed to Air Cargo World today that the freighters out of operation have had an immediate impact on air cargo capacity within Alaska, leading to tightness in capacity and shipping delays for customers.
However, the forwarder also noted that while delayed, the cargo is still moving, albeit more slowly. A spokesperson for Alaska Air Cargo said it has begun flying three 737-800/900 passenger aircraft as dedicated freighters, primarily within the state of Alaska. The carrier is also utilizing its passenger aircraft and working with other carriers to accommodate airfreight demand.
It is unclear precisely when the 737-700Fs will return to service. According to Alaska Airlines, an Airworthiness Directive and a Service Bulletin were issued this morning, which the carrier must review internally. With this news, it is apparent that the rigid barrier system issue affects not only the Classic 737 conversions but at least some NG converted 737s. In a statement on the barrier system, IAI said the barrier does not affect flights during normal operations, and that to the company’s knowledge “there has never been a flight incident in connection with the rigid barrier on these 737 aircraft.”