Transatlantic rivalry brews for freighter converted to Airbus A321
A second manufacturer is preparing to produce cargo planes converted to Airbus A321s in the United States this summer, taking over a European engineering company that is ramping up sales eight months after entering the cargo segment single aisle where the Boeing 737-800 has a three-year head start.
The two companies will be in direct competition and against the Boeing product. Aviation experts say the A321 is highly desirable for express delivery and regional air cargo operations.
Dublin-based rental company GTLK Europe on Thursday ordered four reconfigured planes to carry cargo on the main deck, said Elbe Flugzeugwerke, the company carrying out the work. EFW is expected to convert three of the devices this year and the fourth in 2022.
EFW, based in Dresden, Germany, a joint venture between Airbus and ST Engineering of Singapore, recently opened a second assembly line in China and announced plans to open another in the United States this year. It has already delivered three of the planes – one each to Titan Airways, Qantas Freight and SmartLynx Airlines, based in Latvia. Qantas and SmartLynx planes carry packages for Australia Post and DHL Express, respectively.
So far, at least 17 conversions of passengers to A321 freighter have been ordered by rental companies Vallair, BBAM and GTLK.
321 Precision Conversions, a US joint venture between Precision Aircraft Solutions and a publicly traded lessor and air cargo carrier, Air Transport Services Group (NASDAQ: ATSG), received certification from the US Federal Aviation Administration two weeks ago. United for its design change A321-200, marking the completion of a three-year development program.
PEMCO, a subsidiary of ATSG, a conversion plant in Tampa, Fla., Is starting a production line and plans to begin work on its first A321 in June, chief executive Rich Corrado said on a call for results on Thursday. with analysts.
Avocet Aviation in Sanford, Fla. Will also be a designated conversion site, confirmed Zachary Young, sales manager for 321 PC.
Officials at the joint venture previously indicated that the customer for the first aircraft was Luxembourg-based aircraft rental and services company Vallair. Young said the PEMCO and Avocet facilities each had an A321 parked on-site, ready to be inducted for a conversion in June.
ATSG will make money from 321 precision conversions selling the conversion kits and royalties for the additional type certificate, as well as the engineering work of PEMCO.
The company plans to source A321s through its Cargo Aircraft Management branch, convert them itself at PEMCO, and lease them to express carriers and other customers, such as Amazon Air (NASDAQ: AMZN) and DHL. (DXE: DPW). The A321 will complete the leasing possibilities that ATSG currently enjoys with freighters converted to Boeing 767. Its business model consists of grouping services – crew operations, maintenance, ground handling – around aircraft leased for customers who wish to a turnkey product. Officials say the model diversifies the revenue stream and makes clients stickier than if they were simply leasing an asset.
The A321 presents a wider opportunity for ATSG as it shares the additional type certificate and can also perform touch-to-work conversion, which is not the case with the 767, Corrado explained at a conference. investors in March. Israel Aircraft Industries performs 767 conversions for ATSG.
Narrow-body cargo jets are in great demand among express and postal operators, facing increasing parcel volumes as e-commerce gains popularity. Boeing (NYSE: BA) this week opened another production line to convert 737-800s in Costa Rica.
âThe A321 is a fantastic aircraft for express operators. It can compete with both the 737-800 and offers an excellent replacement opportunity in the 757-200, which until about a year and a half ago was the most prolific express aircraft in the networks of the major operators FedEx. , DHL Express. Said Corrado.
The converted cargo ship A321 is the first in the narrow-body category to offer containerized loading on the main and lower decks. It has a payload of around 61,800 pounds and a range of over 2,300 nautical miles. The 737-800 can only hold bulk cargo in the belly compartment.
Aviation specialists expect a plentiful supply of relatively new and affordable A321s to be available for conversion after airlines downsize in response to lower passenger demand and withdraw many planes ahead of schedule, many switching to the newer, more fuel-efficient A320neo.
321 Precision Conversions and EFW have already made their voices heard, with 321 PC claiming its version has the lowest operational curb weight, more standard range and payload, better crew equipment and better door design. loading and cargo handling system. For its part, EFW claims to have an advantage in terms of lifecycle and maintenance value as it is the original equipment manufacturer. He also claims that his version has a better center of gravity and better coverage for all weight variants of the A321.
Corrado said ATSG was negotiating to procure A321s and hoped to convert three or four in 2022.
âWe see the plane as a great replacement for the 757 as this plane goes up there in terms of age. Very effective; we also think it’s a good upsell of the 737-800 and we think it’s a global aircraft, âATSG chief commercial officer Mike Berger said during the investor presentation. âWe believe the aircraft has applications in the United States and North America, but especially in Europe as well as Southeast Asia, India, and so on. Thus, the aircraft can be used, depending on its size, in different ways. as the market changes and some other aircraft age.
âAnd certainly from a geographic point of view, it adapts very well to service markets around the world,â he said.
China-based Sine Draco Aviation Technology is also developing an A321-200 passenger-to-cargo conversion program and may receive regulatory approval next year.
737-800 mod EU
Meanwhile, Miami-based Aeronautical Engineers Inc. announced on Friday that the European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency had approved its exclusive design for the modernization of the Boeing 737-800. The certification will allow AEI, which has developed its own conversion kit separate from the Boeing program, to convert planes for use in Europe.
AEI said it has received multiple expressions of interest in converting the 737-800 from potential European customers.
The AEI-converted 737-800 freighter offers a main deck payload of up to 52,700 pounds, with 11 full-height container slots and room for a smaller container. The modifications include the installation of a main cargo door, passenger compartment barrier and reinforced floor beams.
Since November, AEI has secured 40 orders for B737-800SF. AEI has 14 simultaneous freight conversion production lines with approved partners, nine of which are dedicated to 737-800 cargo. The company said it is on track to deliver 24 different freighters in 2021 and more than 30 in 2022.
Click here for more FreightWaves / American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.
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