While in the passenger transport segment Boeing has been surpassed by Airbus, in the air cargo sector the US manufacturer still reigns absolute. Jets such as the 757, 767, 747 and MD-11 are among the most used in this task as well as the 737 is quite converted to the function. But even that market is now threatened by Airbus and the first sign of this movement came on Wednesday when the first converted A321P2F flew in Singapore for the first time.
The A321 freighter project is run by the German company Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW), a joint venture between Airbus and ST Aerospace, which specializes in aircraft conversions. The A321P2F designation comes from the abbreviation for “passenger to freighter”.
The converted aircraft will be used by Qantas Airways, but it belongs to the leasing company Vallair, which acquired the A321 after retiring in 1986. Serial number 835, the jet debuted with the defunct British Midland Airways in 1998 and flew for others. four airlines. The aircraft will go through a certification process and enter service only in October.
The conversion of the A320 as a cargo aircraft has been delayed by a curious fact: there are not many units available on the market. Just over 10 years ago, Airbus itself launched a conversion program for 30 family jets, however, in 2011 it gave up due to the high demand for the aircraft in passenger transport.
In fact, currently the first generation A320ceo’s are mostly flying. Of the nearly 4,750 A320 delivered, about 4,400 are in passenger service – with the A321ceo, the situation is even more pronounced: only 28 units are out of operation with 1,753 delivered jets.
With the advent of the A320neo, however, the tendency for the first generation to begin to be put aside in favor of the greater efficiency of the younger brother.
On the other hand, Airbus itself does not offer its new airplanes in freighters, with the exception of the A330-200F, something Boeing does even with the 777F, in addition to offering a conversion program for the 737. In addition, some companies such as IAI Aerospace service with aircraft from the US manufacturer.
27 tons of cargo
As with passenger variants, the A321 freighter can benefit from a larger cross section than the 737 to accommodate more bulky loads. According to EFW, the A321P2F can carry 27 tons of cargo in its 208 m² compartment and fly for 3,520 km. An A320F can, in theory, transport 21 tons in 161 m² of area over a distance of 3,890 km.
Compared to the 737, which can carry 23 tonnes, the Airbus takes advantage of the larger internal space while the A321 freighter would be a more efficient alternative in place of the 757.
And EFW is not alone in this market. Another joint venture, 321 Precision Conversions, is also developing a freighter Airbus, the A321PCF, which is expected to fly in 2020.