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Candidate for conversion

Vallair is ramping up cargo capabilities and sees opportunities as a wave of new freighters take off. Keith Mwanalushi speaks to Head of Cargo Conversions Peter Koster while in Montpellier, France

Nestled conveniently beside Montpellier Méditerranée Airport in the south of France, integrated aviation company Vallair has a fully functioning MRO facility.

Vallair has two facilities in France, including another in Chateauroux. The company provides integrated support for mature aircraft across various business units, including trading and leasing, aircraft teardown, aircraft MRO, engines, aerostructures, painting, and cargo conversions.

On arrival, it’s evident there is plenty of work on the go, with a couple of Airbus A320/A321s and Boeing 737-400 Classics undergoing end-of-lease checks and post-cargo conversion MRO works.

Vallair has delivered 12 737-400 converted freighters to date. Peter Koster, Head of Cargo Conversion Business Unit explains that the company entered the market following the start of maintenance activities and trading on the mature aircraft types. “Suddenly it was visible to us that these aircraft were not for part-outs, so that’s how we grew into that business for conversion,” Koster states.

Vallair has converted 737-400s with AEI and PEMCO. “Basically, we deliver turnkey solutions for airlines that do not want to undertake the conversions by themselves, or may not have the capabilities to do so.”

Koster attests that the process can be complex: “You have to source the aircraft, assess what needs to be changed, make the business plan, finance the aircraft while it's being converted, and then deliver on the turnkey basis. That’s basically the added value that Vallair brings,” he says.

Looking ahead, it’s clear that the -400, as popular as it might be for cargo conversion, will see availability levels dry up. “Indeed, this is a feedstock driven business – we may see some aircraft that we would consider for conversion, but frankly speaking it's getting more difficult to find spares, as well as more difficult to find the right feedstock,” Koster affirms.

He stresses that the (Classics) can be converted as long as a good aircraft can be sourced that will meet the stringent requirements needed. “In Europe for example, industry players are almost saturated with Classics, and gradually progress towards the NGs [Next Generation 737s], not necessarily because of features that the -800 offers, but because they can’t find the feedstock that is worth the long-term investment,” Koster explains. >>


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