Pontifications: NIAR WERX joins with Precision Aircraft Solutions for A321, 757, MD-87 conversions

By Scott Hamilton

May 30, 2022, © Leeham News: NIAR WEXR, the aerospace research arm of Wichita State University (WSU), will join with Precision Aircraft Solutions for passenger-to-freighter and MRO for the Airbus A321, Boeing 757, and the Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) MD-87.

NIAR WERX already converts and performs maintenance on MD-87s and it partnered with Kansas Modification Center to convert Boeing 777-300ERs into freighters. Kansas Mod is not part of the Precision Aircraft deal.

Although announced last week, NIAR and Precision have been working toward this arrangement for some time. NIAR already has been setting up conversion lines and tooling for the A321 and 757. Emphasis will be on the A321. The hangar to be used is a giant one previously used by Boeing for the 747-200 Air Force One work, which is now performed in San Antonio (TX). Four to five lines can be installed in the hangar. This gives the capacity to convert 12-24 aircraft per year. The first A321/757 lines will be ready in the third quarter this year, says David Jones, NIAR WERX executive director.

Previous Work

NIAR WERX isn’t well known, other than as a research arm of WSU. But it has performed engineering and modification work on the F-16 and F-18 jet fighters, the B-1 bomber, and Blackhawk and Apache helicopters. It’s also performed work on military derivatives of commercial aircraft, although Jones declined to specify which ones. (Most likely this includes the Boeing 737 and 767, the active Boeing commercial-military airplane programs today. Out-of-production Boeing 707-based KC-135s and Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) KC-10s might be others.)

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Jones said NIAR is about six months away from obtaining a Supplemental Type Certificate for a Boeing 737-500 airplane used to contain oil spills.

The MD-87 modification work is for Erickson Air Tanker, which uses MD-87s for forest fire control. MD-87s replace Douglas DC-7s previously used by Erickson, which were retire last year. Jack Erickson is the principal owner of Precision Aircraft.

777-300ER P2F

NIAR WERX, with Kansas Mod, is one of three companies converting 777-300ERs to freighters. The other two are IAI Bedek and Mammoth Freighters. A fourth company, Eastern Airlines, is pursuing a quasi-freighter conversion program for 777-200ERs, but without a main deck cargo door.

41 Comments on “Pontifications: NIAR WERX joins with Precision Aircraft Solutions for A321, 757, MD-87 conversions

  1. It’s interesting that there’s so much conversion going on;
    anticipation of humans traveling less, and products more,
    I guess.

    • Bill7:

      I would call it follow itis. Eastern is strange in that they convert a 777 to a sort of F that the airlines have done already as an expedient. Its got no place after and its got established airlines to beat now.

      I don’t know how a 737 “contains” an oil spill. Weird (yes I suspect its a sprayer but really?)

      New entrants will fall by the wayside, existing are well founded and experience.

  2. The FAA wants to keep BA on a short leash:

    “Federal regulators say they will keep closer eye on Boeing”

    “The FAA also said its inspectors — and not Boeing employees — will continue to be responsible for issuing final safety certificates for all new Boeing 737 Max and 787 jets rolling off the company assembly lines.”



  3. The judge in the Qatar/Airbus dispute seems to think that the Qatari regulator is on the wrong track:

    “Airbus and Qatar Airways should co-operate to persuade the Qatari civil aviation authority to adopt a different position regarding the grounding of the airline’s A350s, the judge overseeing the two sides’ legal dispute has stated.”


    • Try to tell the fox to become a vegan and befriend chicken??

  4. It’s interesting that they use the MD-87 for freight conversion, as opposed to the other models. I don’t think they made even 100 87s. There must be a 1000 of the MD-82s, 83s etc., out there.

    • Just checked, they made 75 -87s. I would think, there’s 300-500 regular length MD-80s that might have “miles” left on them for freighter service. Granted, the-88s probably have a different (glass) cockpit.

  5. Bloomberg: “Boeing’s CEO Sees at Least Two-Year Wait on Designing New Jetliner”

    “Prominent customers like Air Lease Corp. founder Steven Udvar-Hazy have been calling on Boeing to get moving on the mid-sized aircraft family Calhoun tabled two years ago. But there are no leaps in engine technology in sight to propel jetliner sales, and Calhoun said he isn’t willing to bet an expensive new development program on the current generation of turbofans.

    “The Boeing chief is counting on new digital tools to revolutionize how aircraft are designed, built and tracked over decades in the commercial market, concepts the company has touted for at least five years.

    “However, Boeing has been testing the technology on defense programs like the T-7 trainer and it isn’t yet “mature,” Calhoun said at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference on Friday.”


    • Fascinating comment from CEO Calhoun; I’m tempted to
      call it deliberately obtuse. Something bigger at work, methinks.

      “No Rush- we’re #1!”

      ok, dude- the good thing is Airbus will definitely sit on their thumbs waiting, for the other guys to catch up..

      “darn good product lineup™.”

      • Stock rebounds to near $140. This is what the CEO is focusing on. 😂

        • > Stock rebounds to near $140. <

          Based on… what, exactly? Mo' munny from Uncle Sugar?

          • Analysts attributed the rise in stock price to optimism stemming from:
            – Germany’s announcement that it’s going to buy 60 Chinook military helicopters.
            – Ongoing “negotiations” between Delta and BA regarding the potential purchase of some MAX aircraft.

  6. Airbus is now delivering A320s with Satellite-based Landing System (SLS) functionality — which was already available on the A350, A330 and A220.

    “SLS enables pilots to perform ‘straight-in’ approaches using satellite precision when coming into land at airports, without the need for additional ground-based systems such as ILS, even in low-visibility conditions, while saving fuel and reducing emissions.”


    Meanwhile, the competitor is still using pulleys and cables, and is objecting to the mandatory use of EICAS on aircraft certified after Dec. 31.

    • > the competitor is still using pulleys and cables, and is objecting to the mandatory use of EICAS on aircraft certified after Dec. 31. <

      A fascinating situation: "Safest plane ever, except for all its crashes!"

      • Cockpit alerting to display short messages as warnings instead of just red or orange warning lights has nothing to do with ‘wires and pulleys’ to operate control surfaces.
        Maybe you could study the numbers of fly by wire airliners that crashed despite having ‘ cockpit messages’ for the pilots to interpret faults, but to no avail.

        • Yes, you keep repeating that 1950s narrative. Black-and-white CRTs work just fine, so why replace them with color FPDs…right?

          The world has moved on in the meantime — except the 737, of course.

          • 737 has colour PFDs for the pilots, since the NG at least maybe earlier

            It just confirms that you have zero understanding , and havent bothered to find out what is meant by electronic alphanumeric alerting system, EICAS

            heres your chance , to spare us the tedious and repetitive comments
            Take your seat in self study beginners class

          • Yes, I know what EICAS is — and we all know that the archaic 737 doesn’t have it. That’s why Congress is trying to drag the plane into the 21st century.

            Pity Congress also didn’t pass legislation on primitive manual trim wheels.

            At least we can take comfort in the knowledge that there’ll be no new interations of this dinosaur.

            Further: might be a good idea to learn the difference between an illustrative analogy and a literal reference…

    • Next question:
      Are the order numbers for the -10 (and -7) large enough to justify the costs of a re-design to incorporate EICAS? Probably not.

      On the other hand:
      After the midterm elections, the Republicans are likely to control both houses on Capitol Hill, and that may work to BA’s advantage (national security, and all that jazz).

    • The time period was to allow the existing planes still in development to complete certification and the apply for all other ‘all new’ airliners .
      There will be a extension of time by Congress, you can be certain of that, im not so sure your concerns will be noted by Congress at all.

      • The first members of Congress have already indicated opposition to an extension. After all, there’s not much reputational virtue to passing safety-oriented laws, and then binning them so that BA can save some dollars.

  7. Calhoun has said a couple of times earlier that the new airplane program will be built on this new digital manufacturing technology. History has shown these people are suckers for some kind of pie-in-the-sky magic-bullet that will allow a $15 billion dev program be accomplished for $7 billion.
    Can it be done? Let’s just say I would put more faith in it if the concept came from Northrop, Lockheed, Airbus…or basically any other company in the US or Europe.

    • Mr. Calhoun is deluded, or worse. That’s the same kind of BS Boeing were spouting about the 787; how has *that* program worked out ?

      Any new-news about when Boeing 787 deliveries will finally start up again?

      deludere, deludere..

      • Calhoun agrees with you when he says Boeing isn’t there yet in the digital model approach for commercial projects.
        but which they have used in their smaller USAF projects the T-7 and classified new fighter jets

        • Calhoun announced just this week that the new T-7 digital techniques weren’t yet “mature”.
          Another 2 years, at least.

  8. Was it the first week of June?? Has BA delivered any new 787 to customers yet?

  9. Well, with regard to re-starting delivery of current production Boeing 787s, astute commenter Transworld (and a couple of others) seemed confident that that was going to happen in April 2022.

    Here we are..

    • Careful, Bill7. “Astute commenter” is unnecessary. Further, that date was mentioned by American Airlines and not disputed by Boeing. So TW was well within reason to cite April.


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