25 OCTOBER 2010
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West Atlantic, Europe's largest regional cargo airline, is to become the world’s first operator of the Airbus A320 passenger to freight (P2F) conversion. The deal will provide for three aircraft to be delivered between the end of 2012 and mid-2013, with the option of a further four aircraft by 2015.
The Airbus A320 family includes over 4,300 aircraft already built and an additional 2,300 aircraft on order. Whilst the classic Boeing 737 family, which predates the Airbus 320 series by 20 years, has already been widely accepted by the air cargo industry, the more advanced fly-by-wire Airbus is a generation ahead in terms of technology.
Behind the deal is Dutch leasing company AerCap. In 2008 it contracted with Airbus on a programme to purchase and convert A320 and A321 aircraft into freighters with a capacity of 21 and 28 metric tonnes respectively (depending on variant), a 121-inch (3.1m) aft cargo door plus ETOPS long range capability.
Speaking at the Aviation Club (see elsewhere in this issue) Airbus boss Tom Enders noted that the manufacturer had not been “too bright” in the past regarding the air cargo business (hinting at the A380F fiasco). He said that the conversion project was the way forward and noted the delivery of the first A330F to Etihad. www.airbus.com www.atlanticairlines.co.uk
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