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Freighter conversion program marks new milestone with flight tests

Singapore — ST Engineering, Airbus and their joint venture, Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW) achieved new milestones for their joint A321 passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversion solution with the first post-conversion flight test for the prototype A321P2F unit and new orders.

The first flight test for the prototype unit, which is to be redelivered to launch customer Vallair, was successfully carried out on January 22 after undergoing conversion at ST Engineering’s facility in Singapore.

“After our A321P2F unit receives certification and starts operating, we expect our program to gain greater traction, joining our pool of Airbus P2F platforms to provide the global air cargo market with cost and fuel-efficient freighter options,” stated Lim Serh Ghee, President of ST Engineering’s Aerospace sector.

Added Dr. Andreas Sperl, CEO of EFW: “The A321P2F conversion program is the first in its size category to offer unique containerized loading in both the main deck with up to 14 container positions and lower deck with up to 10 container positions. It is not only the ideal narrow body freighter aircraft for express domestic and regional operations, but it also has a generous payload-range capability to fly over 2,300 nautical miles, carrying up to 27.9 metric tonnes.”

In other significant milestones, the program gained traction among operators and lessors looking for a P2F solution in the narrow body category. A Letter of Intent (LOI) was signed between Keystone Holdings, an ST Engineering aircraft leasing joint venture and Qantas for the conversion and leasing of an A321P2F. The aircraft, to be converted at ST Engineering’s facility in Singapore and delivered in end 2021, is currently on lease for passenger service to Qantas Group. The solution in converting and leasing a freighter that meets an operator’s specifications leverages the synergy ST Engineering has in innovative asset management and freighter conversions.

Lim added, “Using the strengths we possess as an integrated aviation solutions provider, we are able to bring to the market unique and bespoke solutions under one roof. At the same time, our innovative solutions in aircraft leasing and freighter conversion extend the life cycle of mid-life aircraft to provide operators cost-effective and flexible options in fleet management.”

Two new orders from BBAM, a global leader in aircraft lease management, mark another milestone for the A321P2F program. Following an LOI announced on 20 June 2019, BBAM signed a General Terms Agreement in December for several A321P2F conversions. The first A321P2F unit for BBAM was inducted in January 2020 for conversion at ST Engineering’s facility in Singapore, while conversion for the second unit will commence in March.

Steve Zissis, President and CEO of BBAM, said, “As the first conversion solution for narrow body freighters to optimize volumetric capacity by introducing a containerized lower deck, the A321P2F has the potential to be the game changer for any hub and spoke or point-to-point air cargo operation. For this reason, we made the decision to offer this conversion solution to our customers.”