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Classic Freighters

By: Category: Air FreightersAirlinesAirports Around the WorldTransports

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"Classic", one dictionary definition would be “A thing that is remarkable, and a very good example of its kind.” This perfectly describes the Freighter Aircraft that the IFL Group flies today. The IFL Group is headquartered at the Oakland County International Airport in Waterford MI, which is approximately 40 miles Northwest of Detroit MI. Oakland County International Airport handles a considerable amount of Business Jet and Prop traffic in addition to plenty of Freighter Action. There is also a nice observation area right next to the terminal. The IFL Group provides safe and reliable on demand aircraft charters as well as scheduled service. The current fleet is a mix of Dassault Falcon 20 and 20-5’s in both passenger and freight configuration, Boeing 727-200’s, Convair 580 and 5800’s and is the launch customer for the Bombardier CRJ-200SF.

The IFL Group began operations in 1983 as Air Contract Cargo flying Cessna 310 and Piper Navajo type aircraft. A name change to Contract Air Cargo came shortly afterwards with Douglas DC-3’s joining the fleet in 1984. The Douglas DC-4 and Convair 340,580, and 5800 types would be added in the mid to late 1990’s. The turn of the Century and beyond would bring jets to the fleet namely Boeing 727-100 and 200 series aircraft and the Dassault Falcon 20’s. Today Contract Air Cargo is owned by the IFL Group which the Falcon Jets whose operating certificate the Falcon Jets are flown under, while the Convairs and 727’s operate under the Gulf and Caribbean Cargo operating certificate.

The Dassault Falcon 20 Jet which flew in 1965 is operated in both a cargo configuration and a 9-passenger configuration. The Falcons are flown under Part 135 operating authority which covers On-demand operators of aircraft that seat 30 or fewer passengers and a maximum payload of 7,500 pounds. IFL is quite unique as it flies both the standard Falcon 20 and the Falcon 20-5 extended range which allows an additional range of 500 miles. The Falcon’s large 74x55 cargo door, 5,500-pound payload and 500 MPH cruising speed make it an ideal aircraft in the on-demand freight charter world. The Passenger version IFL flies can seat 9 in a fully outfitted executive interior. The Falcon Jets are currently based at Pontiac MI, Mc Allen TX, and Thief River Falls MN.

The iconic Boeing 727-200 aircraft are operated by Gulf and Caribbean Cargo which is a Part 121 certified air carrier. IFL’s fleet consists of 3 aircraft with two being 1984 built 727-2S2F’s delivered initially to FedEx. These 727’s are considered “Super 27’s” as 2 of the 3 Pratt and Whitney JT8D Series engines are similar to what is found on the MD-80 series which give an additional 50 MPH of cruise speed. The other 727 is a 1969 vintage 727-225F that has been flown by numerous airlines such as Eastern, Arrow, and Purolator Courier. These 727’s have a 55,000 to 57,500-pound payload and can accommodate 12 125x88 aircraft pallets. These aircraft are based at Pontiac and Brownsville and are the Heavy lifters of the IFL Fleet.

The Newest addition to the IFL Group Fleet is the Bombardier CRJ-200SF (Special Freighter). On December 2016 the first CRJ was delivered to be operated under the Gulf and Caribbean Cargo name. N405SW originally delivered to SkyWest Airlines in 1994 underwent Passenger to Freighter (P2F) conversion by Aeronautical Engineers INC. of Miami FL. This conversion included the addition of a 94x77 inch cargo door, and modifications to allow up to 14,840 pounds of payload, loaded on 8 88x61.5-inch aircraft pallets. The IFL Group fleet currently numbers 4 aircraft.

From the Newest to the oldest, the mainstay of the IFL Group fleet is the Convair 580 and the stretch version the Convair 5800. The IFL Group Fleet currently consists of 7 Convair 580’s and 4 Convair 5800’s. These workhorses first flew in the mid to late 1950’s, the oldest airframe dates back to 1953. All of the original aircraft were built as Convair 340, 440, C-131F, or VC-131H’s and sub sequentially converted to 580 or 5800 types.

The Freighter version of the Convair 580 with its twin Allison 501-D13 engines have a payload of 15,000 pounds of freight carried on 5 pallets loaded through a 122x71 inch cargo door. The Convair 580’s were all modified by Pacific Airmotive and feature a larger tail fin and modified horizontal stabilizers. The IFL Group’s 580’s are based at Pontiac MI, Phoenix AZ, San Juan PR, and Aguadilla PR. These aircraft are under contract to FedEx, UPS, DHL, and Caribex. Daily flights to major cities in North America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. The most important Hub and Operations base for both Convair types is found in Miami FL. Three Convair 580’s are based here operating contract flights for FedEx and Cayman Airways. Daily flights connect Miami with major cities in Mexico, Central America and the Cayman Islands. These flights are all scheduled out of Miami in the mid-morning with return flights in the mid to late evening.

The Convair 5800 first took flight in 1992, with a total of 6 aircraft converted by KF Aerospace of Canada. The 5800 has some very notable differences to the smaller 580. The most noticeable is the 16 foot stretch of the fuselage, and the non-modified tail fin. The 5800 can accommodate 6.5 pallet positions of cargo and 1000 pounds of additional payload over the 580. The 5800 has twin Allison 501D-22G engines which provide more power than the Allison’s on the 580. The flight deck has been modernized as well to include digital avionics and an Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS). The 5800 are based at Pontiac MI, El Paso TX, and like the 580 the most important base is Miami FL. Contract flights are flown on behalf of FedEx, UPS, and DHL to Mexico and the Caribbean.

These meticulously maintained classics are the backbone of the IFL Groups daily operations. Keep an eye out for Airline Code “IFL” or “TSU” on your flight tracker, and your ears open for the callsign of “Eifel” or “Trans Auto” at an airport near you. Catch one of these classics while you can, with so few active Convairs and 727’s left you may miss an Golden opportunity before they are gone. I would like to thank everyone at the IFL Group for their help and hospitality in preparing this article and for the up-close look at their aircraft. Until next time “Blue Skies to All!”

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