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Cash converters

The mid-sized widebody freighter conversions market is gaining momentum. Keith Mwanalushi looks at how the A330 and B767 are faring

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said despite indicators pointing to air cargo having passed a cyclical growth peak, globally demand remains strong.


IATA reports 2017 was the strongest year for air cargo since 2010. The uptick in freight growth coincides with a freighter conversions market that is ramping up accordingly to meet this surge in demand.


Boeing and Airbus forecast robust freighter fleet additions for both growth and replacement in the next 20 years. Boeing forecasts, in their current market outlook 2017-36, that the freighter market will require 2,480 additional freighters (1,560 conversions and 920 new) with Airbus predicting in their global market forecast 2017-36 that an additional 1,950 freighters (1,218 conversions and 732 new) will be needed.


The A330 conversion programme is finally under way. DHL Express has become the first operator to take delivery of the A330-300 Passenger-to-Freighter (P2F) converted aircraft from Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW).


DHL Express has firm orders for eight A330-300P2F units in total, with additional options to receive another 10. The A330P2F conversion programme, launched in 2012, is a collaboration with ST Aerospace.


“The idea to have an A330 conversion goes back to 2004 but it was far too early to do a development, but even back then we knew that this would be the natural follow up to the A300-600F which was a successful aircraft,” declares Wolfgang Schmid, Vice President Sales and Marketing at EFW.


He says the A300-600 programme was so successful that it run out of feedstock. “We converted everything we could get.”


Having said that, Schmid admits it took a bit of time to get the A330 conversion programme running but he feels that today is the perfect time for conversions due to its popularity in the passenger market, as well as having the right age and values to make a good converted freighter. “It would have been difficult a couple of years ago,” he states.


The A330 has become much more successful on the passenger market than ever expected, even by Airbus, he says.


The A330P2F programme has two variants – the A330-200P2F and the larger A330-300P2F. The latter is ideal for serving the international express B2B and e-commerce cargo markets, which typically have a higher volume and lower density. The aircraft can carry up to 61 metric tonnes over 3,650 nautical miles, whilst offering 20-25% more cargo volume and lower cost-per-tonne than other available freighter aircraft types with a similar range, according to EFW.


Schmid remarks that limited payload is now not a disadvantage: “Payload is not the driver for freighter aircraft anymore – its volume, volume and volume! The A330s are the best volumetric freighters you can think of, the -300 is endless and makes a perfect parcel freighter.”

Schmid foresees steady demand for the conversions and EFW is in talks with several prospective operators. “We are talking to all of them,” he says. “Of course, we are talking to all the big guys but it’s not only the likes of FedEx or UPS, it’s also the Amazon’s next day delivery services needs. They are growing very fast now, and this is the perfect platform for serving this new demand.” >>


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