Freighter conversion business to improve soon

Over the past two years, delays that hit the A380 programme between 2005 and 2007, and aircraft deliveries reduction at Airbus, as well as delays to the Boeing Dreamliner 787 programme, coupled with order cancellations following the global economic crisis all took their toll on the passenger-to- freighter conversion industry due to lack of aircraft. But the business is expected to improve soon, industry players say. By Wong Joon San.

Asked whether the A380’s market entry and the pending 787’s introduction will impact passenger aircraft supply in the freighters business, Wolfgang Schmid, vice president Sales, Marketing & Customer Support at EADS EFW (Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmbH), says: “In the past, the late B787 may have had some influence on the availability of widebody airframes”, but he does not see any impact at present.

The Boeing-licensed Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company Limited (HAECO) declined to provide details about its passenger-to-freighter conversion programme in China, but it is understood that a number of potential customers for aircraft conversions could not carry out their plans in the last two years due to lack of availability of passenger aircraft, the situation is improving.

As to whether the global economic crisis had impacted EADS EFW’s freighter conversion industry last year, Schmid says: “Actually yes and no. Due to the crises our customers had no chance to acquire airframes as passenger airlines did not replace their older equipment.

“No Airbus widebodies were on sale on the market for a long time. In other words there was no feedstock for the conversion. So, crises had no chance to touch our business directly. Still our major problem is to source suitable airframes for conversions for our customers,” he says.