Airbus has revealed that is developing a modification for A330 and A350 family aircraft which will enable airlines to install freight pallets directly onto the cabin floor seat tracks in economy class cabins, after removal of the seats.
This solution is intended to help with airlines’ business continuity, and also to help alleviate the global shortage of ‘belly-freight’ air cargo capacity due to the widespread grounding of long-haul aircraft due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The additional cargo capacity enabled by the modification would also help the industry address the high demand for humanitarian flights to transport large quantities of medical equipment and other supplies rapidly over large distances.
According to Airbus, compared with loading cargo onto seats, this solution facilitates easier and quicker loading and unloading operations, as well as reduced ‘wear & tear’ to the seats themselves. Other claimed benefits of the design include the added security of robust fire protection, and the 9g load restraint capability to prevent anything from shifting in flight.
The modification is packaged for operators as an Airbus Service Bulletin (SB). Under this arrangement Airbus defines the scope of engineering work and also manages the process for obtaining the one-time certification from EASA.
The work scope also includes the removal of the seats and IFE, and the installation of cargo pallets and associated safety equipment – and also the re-installation of the original passenger cabin elements for when an aircraft needs to revert back to passenger operations. The SB approach will also be valid beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Airbus.