A330P2F conversion program cleared for launch

Victoria
By Victoria January 30, 2013 11:50

A330P2F conversion program cleared for launch

With the completion of ST Aerospace’s investment of 35% equity interest in Elbe Flugeugwerke GmbH (EADS EFW) and following the receipt of regulatory approvals, ST Aeropace, EFW and Airbus have initiated the A330 Passenger-to-Freight (P2F)aircraft conversion engineering development phase.

In February last year, the three companies signed a memorandum of understanding for a strategic partnership to develop the A330P2F conversion programme. ST Aerospace will lead the A330P2F engineering development, while EADS EFW will subsequently be responsible as programme lead during the industrial phase, and will undertake most of the conversions at its facilities in Dresden, Germany. Under the agreement it is planned that EADS EFW will become the European centre for ST Aerospace’s global maintenance, repair and overhaul operations.
“The first A330 will be converted from December 2015 with a predicted entry-into-service one year later,” says Jon Howey, Director Sales – Aircraft Conversion at EADS EFW. “We are very much out in the market now for a 2016 first delivery of this freighter.”
The A330P2F programme includes two versions – the A330-200P2F and the larger A330-300P2F. Of the two models, the larger A330-300P2F will be particularly suitable for integrators and express carriers thanks to its high volumetric payload capability with lower-density cargo. Complementing this will be the A330-200P2F which will be optimised for higher-density freight and longer range performance. “The P2F conversion aircraft will be offered to the market with a next-generation powered cargo loading system. Installation of an alternative manual cargo loading system will be a customer option,” says Howey. “We believe that there is a distinct market for these aircraft and for those carrying heavier freight will get the most value out of a powered system whereas those carrying lighter freight, such as the express operators, would not require it.”
At the time the MoU was signed last year, the parties estimated that “2,700 freighters will be required over the next 20 years, and around half of these will be in the mid-sized freighter segment, including 900 conversions”. However the market has distinctly softened since then and there has been a severe deceleration in the air cargo market.
“Although we have been full over the past year mainly with A300-600 conversions, we have been very lucky in that respect since the market has been soft over the past year particularly on the large aircraft,” says Howey. “The economy is not picking up and although world trade is still growing, it is slow and there is overcapacity in the freighter market – a number of widebody freighters have been parked and also a number of A300-600s and A310-300s. That has never happened before in previous downturns. With that environment in mind, there is a lot of capacity that needs to come back online and until that happens there isn’t really a possibility to sell further conversions – 2013 looks like it will be a very difficult year.”
It will be a difficult year for all converters, aside perhaps those focusing on the 737P2F since the freighter has been deployed on new regional routes in emerging markets such as China, India and Latin America. Larger freighters such as the A300-600s are typical deployed on more established routes and as such new markets are limited until they become more developed – although Howey is confident new regional routes in India and China will soon need larger freighter aircraft. “The 737 converted freighters have enjoyed a good year because they can fly on those routes in emerging markets that are developing regional cargo routes. The 737 offers a cheap way to start flying airfreight within the region. The A300 may find a roll in some of those markets going forward and we are tracking where those regional routes are becoming more established – in China and India especially we have seen places that could support -600 application and we are working with potential customers there.”
Looking ahead, Howey sees a burgeoning market for A330P2F converted aircraft since most A350 customers are existing A330 customers, which will turning over a significant amount of A330s into the secondary market when the A350 comes on line. “In the medium-term, we believe the air cargo market will improve and when we come out of this elongated cycle the demand will be there for the A330P2F,” says Howey.

Victoria
By Victoria January 30, 2013 11:50
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