Singapore Technologies Aerospace Ltd (ST Aerospace) has signed agreements with Airbus and Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmbH (EFW) for a collaboration to launch the A320/A321 passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversion programme. Under the agreements, ST Aerospace will lead the A320/A321P2F engineering development, working in tandem with Airbus and EFW, with conversions to be undertaken in EFW and in ST Aerospace’s global network of facilities. This follows a similar collaboration for the A330P2F conversion programme launched in 2013.
“As a centre of excellence for freighter conversions, with strong engineering capabilities across multiple aircraft platforms, this new collaboration will extend our conversion portfolio and enhance our value-added proposition to customers worldwide,” said Lim Serh Ghee, president of ST Aerospace. “The A320P2F and A321P2F will be excellent workhorses, which would offer aircraft operators great value and efficiency.”
This partnership leverages the three industry leading companies’ respective strengths for the continued success of the conversion programmes: Given its strong engineering design background and freighter conversions track record, ST Aerospace will be the programme and technical lead during the A320/A321P2F development phase, similar to current arrangements for the A330P2F; As an aircraft OEM, Airbus will actively support the programme by providing the OEM data and certification support; and EFW will drive sales and marketing activities and lead the industrialisation phase.
“The launch of the A320/A321P2F programme is very good news for EFW and the airfreight cargo market. We are convinced of the significant market potential for our product,” said Andreas Sperl, president and CEO of EFW. “Beginning with the A321P2F variant, we will be the only one to offer our customers a reliable OEM conversion solution with conversion facilities in Asia, Europe and the US.”
The A320/A321P2F programme includes two versions – the A320P2F and the larger A321P2F. The unique fuselage design of the A320 and A321 allows bulk cargo or containerised freight to be carried in belly holds, delivering more loading flexibility. The A320P2F with eleven main-deck positions will be capable of carrying 21 tonnes of payload over 2,100nm, while the A321P2F with 14 main-deck positions will be able to carry up to 27 tonnes over 1,900nm.
“This freighter conversion agreement is a great new step for our highly successful A320 family programme. For aircraft owners and investors, this will enhance the value of their aircraft,” said Harald Wilhelm, chief financial officer of Airbus Group and Airbus. “It is also good for EFW, as it will provide for new business opportunities. ST Aerospace is the ideal partner for this initiative, given its strong engineering development capabilities and our existing cooperation on the A330 conversions.”
“This is the only Airbus-supported A320 Family freighter conversion programme, and as such will take full benefit of our inherent design knowledge of the aircraft, our engineering know-how, as well as the extensive operational experience from the thousands of Airbus single-aisle aircraft in service today,” said Tom Williams, chief operating officer of Airbus. “We are therefore confident this will be the best solution for freight operators and we’re pleased to collaborate with EFW and ST Aerospace to make this happen.”
Airbus foresees a significant market demand for more than 600 narrowbody passenger aircraft to be converted to freighters over the next 20 years. Addressing this requirement, the A320/A321P2F facilitates the change to environmentally-friendly, new technology converted freighters, while recognising the operators’ focus on capital cost. The A320/A321P2F will be the only freighters in this narrowbody segment to feature digital fly-by-wire technology, and the ability to accommodate containerised or palletised lower-deck cargo, which is more volume efficient than bulk loading in the lower hold.