Airbus’ First Converted A320 Is Now Flying

Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW), a joint venture formed by Airbus and ST Engineering, this week shared that its first converted passenger-to-freighter (PTF) Airbus A320 has taken flight for the first time. The A320P2F was converted at Singapore’s Seletar Aerospace Park, where the maiden flight also took place.

The conversion joins the likes of the A321P2F, A330-300P2F, and A330-200P2F in the air. Photo: EFW

A new lease of life

The A320-232 is 15-years old and began its life at LATAM Airlines Brasil. The plane also flew with IndiGo Airlines from April 2018. The aircraft has now been offered a lifeline following its conversion. It’s set to go through several flight tests before receiving a Supplemental-Type-Certificate (STC) from European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). 

ST Engineering Aerospace Resources (STEAR) will lease the narrowbody to Vaayu Group, which will operate five units in total. Services with the converted A320P2F will begin next year.

RadarBox D-AAES
The A320P2F, holding serial number 2737, took a trip east of Singapore on December 8th. Photo:

Plenty of space

There are attractive benefits to be had with the conversion. The plane can fit 10 ULD containers and a pallet position on the main deck. Additionally, seven ULD containers can be placed on the lower deck. EFW highlights that the aircraft has a considerably greater payload and volume than the competition. 

“Notable features of the A320P2F conversion include: a main-deck cargo door in the forward fuselage on the left side – this is hydraulically actuated and electrically locked and measuring 142” width and 85” height; a 9G rigid cargo barrier with a lightweight and durable design for optimal usage of available space; a light-weight cargo lining; a manually operated cargo loading system with full support of industry standard narrowbody ULDs; reinforced floor panels & floor grid to cater for higher running loads; and a Class-E cargo compartment fully meeting the industry requirements” – EFW via statement.

Airbus A320P2F
The aircraft can provide 21 tonnes of payload over 1,800 NM (3,330 km) and 17 tonnes up to 2,560 NM (4,740 km). Photo: EFW

Amid the onset of the global health crisis, airlines took it upon themselves to adapt and convert units of their fleets. As a result, in May this year, SriLankan Airlines’ maintenance and engineering department completed a conversion of an A320 into a preighter. Registration 4R-EXQ went on to fly with FitsAir and can carry cargo in its belly. Nonetheless, the Airbus joint venture proudly promotes its A320P2F with registration D-AAES as the first of its kind.

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Meeting market requirements

Overall, there is increasing demand for cargo solutions amid the changing requirements of society. The need for crucial supplies and the rise of e-commerce is driving this shift. Approximately 2,440 planes are needed to cater to the demand over the next two decades and just under half of the aircraft are expected to be PTF narrowbody conversions. 

Single-aisle freighter conversions have long been a solution for cargo needs. In the past, the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC-8 were staples in the industry. Even up until now, cargo modifications of the 727, 737-200, DC-9, and MD-80 have been spotted in the skies.

Furthermore, the 757-200, 737-300, and 737-400 have been freighter conversion mainstays. We also witnessed the launch of the 737-800BCF program in 2016. Along with the existing A321P2F, Airbus will be hoping to see success with the commencement of operations with the A320P2F in 2022.

What are your thoughts about this A320 conversion conducting its first flight? Do you feel that this model will be a valuable asset to the industry? Let us know what you think of the program and its prospects in the comment section.

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