By Cornelius Kwok
The world’s first Airbus A320, converted as part of the Elbe Flugzeuwerke (EFW) passenger-to-freighter conversion programme, took off on its maiden flight last week. Following the Airbus A321P2F, which went into service with Qantas Freight in 2020, the Airbus A320P2F is EFW’s second conversion program for narrowbody aircraft.
The aircraft, registered as D-AAES took off from Singapore Seletar Airport on the 8th December 2021, a sign that we can expect the aircraft to be operational by early 2022. Formerly operated by Indigo as (VT-IHM), the 15-year-old Airbus A320 arrived in Singapore on February 2021 and works to convert the aircraft into a freighter officially began in March this year.
Under the conversion program, the Airbus A320P2F is capable of carrying 10 ULD containers with an additional pallet on the main deck and with seven ULD containers on the lower deck. The Airbus A320P2F offers greater payload than its competitors while offering the lowest fuel burn in its class, carrying up to 21 tons of payload over 1800nm and up to 2560nm with 17 tons of payload, making the A320P2F the ideal narrowbody freighter aircraft in the market.
Features on the A320P2F
Primary notable features of the A320P2F includes a new hydraulically actuated main-deck cargo door, measuring 142” by 85”; a 9G rigid cargo barrier; light weight cargo lining; a manually operated cargo loading system with full support of industry standard narrowbody ULDs; reinforced floor panels and floor grid to cater for higher running loads; and a Class-E cargo compartment fully meeting the industry requirements. Similar to the larger A321P2F, a new main entry door as well as an extended flight deck were also incorporated into the modifications on the A320P2Fs during the conversion process.
EFW said that the aircraft will continue to perform a series of flight tests over the next few weeks before being issued a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
The aircraft is expected to enter service with Vaayu Group, which signed a lease for five A320P2Fs from ST Aviation Leasing arm, ST Engineering Aerospace Resources. The A320P
2F is expected to be delivered in the first half of 2022.
Is the P2F still relevant in a pandemic recovery?
Even with the global economy gradually recovering from COVID-19 and the eventual return to pre-pandemic levels looming closer, the demands by e-commerce and logistics will continue to have a significant impact on the need for the dedicated freighter. Recent events over the last 2 years have shown the significance of air cargo operations on the world, and the viability of a Passenger to Cargo conversion program remains even more relevant in times ahead. With over 9000 Airbus A320s currently in service, the means to support any cargo operational growth is easily attainable with affordable and effective P2F conversions programs offered by Elbe Flugzeuwerke and ST Engineering, ensuring a new lease of life for the Airbus A320.