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Ups and downs

The big two airframe companies had freighter news at Farnborough, says Ian Harbison


Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW), the joint venture between ST Aerospace and Airbus Group, has signed the first A330-300P2F (passenger-to-freighter) conversion contract with DHL Express. Under the agreement, EFW will convert four Airbus A330-300 passenger aircraft to a 26-pallet cargo configuration capable of carrying up to 61 tonnes of payload. The first aircraft will be inducted into EFW’s Dresden-based facilities in July 2016, scheduled for redelivery to DHL Express by the end of 2017.


The A330P2F conversion programme launched in 2012 is a collaboration between Airbus, EFW and ST Aerospace. ST Aerospace, as the programme and technical lead for the engineering development phase, is responsible for applying for the supplemental type certificates for the freighter conversions, from EASA and FAA. Airbus contributes to the programme with OEM data and certification support, while EFW leads the industrialisation phase and marketing for the freighter conversion programme.


The A330P2F programme includes two versions – the A330-200P2F and the larger A330-300P2F. Of the two variants, the larger A330-300P2F is suited for integrators and express carriers due to its high volumetric payload capability with lower-density cargo. Complementing this will be the A330-200P2F, which is optimised for higher-density freight and longer range performance.


DHL Express is EFW’s first customer for the A330-300P2F conversion programme, while a launch contract with EGYPTAIR Cargo for the A330-200P2F conversion programme was secured in December 2014.



Boeing may be confident about the world freighter market in the long term but it is hurting at the moment. Its latest Current Market Outlook 2016-2035 (CMO), published in July, foresees a need for 930 cargo aircraft with a capacity in excess of 80 tonnes.


The CMO says 2015 was a year of many challenges for air cargo. Global trade stalled towards the middle of the year amid uncertainty emanating from Chinese manufacturing and globally weak industrial production. Throughout the second half of the year, the global trade picture has been modestly improving and there are now signs that international trade is picking up speed throughout 2016. Major economic forecasters see growth averaging around 4% for the remainder of the decade.


Unfortunately, that upswing is too late for the company’s struggling 747-8 programme, which has been hit by a lack of demand for both the passenger aircraft (74 ordered, 63 delivered by end June 2016), and the 747-8F freighter (51 ordered, 41 delivered by end June 2016). As a result, to account for current and anticipated weakness in the air cargo market and with such a small backlog, Boeing will continue to produce 747-8 aircraft at a rate of just 0.5 per month and no longer increase the production rate to 1.0 per month in 2019. It will also take an $814 million after-tax charge ($1.28 per share) on the programme to reflect a lower estimated total of 747-8F aircraft to be produced in the programme accounting quantity and lower estimated revenues on future aircraft sales.


This was despite an earlier announcement at the Farnborough Air Show that Boeing and Volga-Dnepr Group had finalised terms for the acquisition of 20 747-8Fs, which includes four aircraft that have already been delivered. Volga-Dnepr Group was the first to order the Boeing 747-8F in Russia, signing up for five aircraft in 2006 and taking delivery of its first aircraft in 2012. Subsidiary, AirBridgeCargo added three aircraft in 2014 and will be the main recipient of the new order, which will be a mix of direct purchases and leasing over the next six years, replacing the current five 747-400ERFs and three 747-400Fs. >>

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