From passenger jet to cargo aircraft: That’s the foreseeable fate of many Airbus A330-200s and A330-300s. The conversion program, beginning with building a prototype for testing purposes, is targeted for 2016.
Roughly three out of four freighters flying today started their lives as passenger aircraft, but continued operating in the middle of their life-cycle as freighters after being converted from
P2Fs. This ratio could further change in favor of transformed aircraft soon once the first passenger A330s are phased out by their operators and become available for the market as cargo aircraft.
Presumably, this will happen in 2017, announces Head of Communication Christopher Profitlich at converter EADS EFW.
The A330 P2F project is being pushed forward jointly by his Dresden, Germany-based company and Singapore’s ST Aerospace, a 35 percent stakeholder in EFW.
The basic decision dates back to February 2012, with Tom Enders, the then CEO of Airbus, Chang Cheow Teck, CEO of STAerospace and Andreas Sperl, CEO of EADS EFW signing an MoU for a strategic partnership to develop the A330 Passenger-to-Freighter conversion program.
The entire process involves extensive structural changes including the reinforcement of the floor, strengthening the frames, cutting open the hull to install a large cargo hatch, including the integration of roller-beds for maneuvering pallets and containers with ease when loading or unloading the aircraft. In addition to the heavy structural work, there are also extensive wiring adjustments. Other system changes include the integration of a control system enabling different temperature zones within the main deck, smoke detection devices and other technical modifications.
Since good things take time, Profitlich warns against unrealistic expectations regarding the quick implementation of the program, by emphasizing: “We are still in the engineering phase.”
There shouldn’t be any lack of supply since enough passenger-A330s are available and qualify for the planned conversion program. The practical work giving the A330s a different look will be performed at EFW’s plant located at Dresden Airport. According to Airbus, the total number of A330-200s and -300s in service is more than 1,100, operated by more than 100 airlines worldwide. In addition, another 1,300 Airbus 330s are on order, with the production series continuing until some day in the near future this variant will be replaced by the A350.
EADS EFW is anything but a newcomer in overhaul, repair or the P2F-conversion biz. According to figures, they are the global market leader in wide-body freighter conversions having completed P2F transformations of more than 170 aircraft on behalf of 39 customers. “Our A300 and A310 conversion program turned out to be extremely successful,” says Christopher. He goes on to say that it hasn’t come to an end since a number of airlines, among them China Eastern and also some major logistics players are still waiting for their A300s being remodeled by EFW.
According to Profitlich, talks with potential customers interested in operating converted A330Fs are under way.