Airbus A330 cargo conversions are proving popular as airlines are using the aircraft to expand into new markets and fly longer routes, exploiting their capability and fuel efficiency. However, that popularity has created a waiting list, which can be five years or more in some cases. As a more immediate option, Vallair has released details of what it says is the first E Class widebody freighter conversion capability, an option designed to bridge the gap while operators wait for full freighter conversion slots.
The conversion method, which will be undertaken at Vallair’s new hangar in Châteauroux, France, is the result of a joint investment between Vallair and UUDS, a Part 21 certified cabin modification specialist in France. EASA approval using a Supplemental Type Certificate is expected within the next two months.
Grégoire Lebigot, founder, president & CEO of Vallair, explains the conversion, “Turning the Airbus A330-300 upper deck into a cargo area without installing the large cargo door means that the conversion cost will be just a quarter of the cost compared to a conversion with [a door]. Turnaround time will be just around one month instead of six – so the benefits are clear to see.”
The E Class conversion means that loading is not done on pallets or containers, instead using a conveyor that fits inside the cargo hold to load and distribute individual parcels. This method expedites the process and reduces turnaround times considerably, according to Vallair. The company believes that the industry will view this as a sustainable option that will keep their aircraft assets flying for longer.
“This solution addresses current market needs and increases the value of the asset because it is completely reversible should the market change” added Lebigot. “The aircraft can easily be converted back to a PAX configuration, or transformed into a freighter with a large cargo door in future. It is a complementary alternative solution to the traditional freighter conversion, not a replacement.”
Gilles Negre, founder & CEO of UUDS explained the importance of the reversible design, “Flexibility in aircraft cabin and cargo configuration has always been key factor for successful aviation operations and revenue optimisation. Our quick-change and reversible solution brings this versatility to operators and gives them additional revenue generating options. It also offers lessors alternative solutions to boost their aircraft utilisation and life expectancy. Return-on-investment is improved and asset value is increased.”
Vallair’s new hangar in Châteauroux is a key enabler of the A330-300 E Class conversion service. The hangar can accommodate two A330 aircraft, or one Airbus A330 and up to three Airbus A321s at any one time, which means that Vallair now has the ability to perform both widebody and narrowbody maintenance, with additional services on site including maintenance, paint, engine shop, aerostructure repairs, conversion, teardown and component support.
Vallair has already secured customers, with the first two Deucalion Aviation-managed Airbus A330-300 aircraft already in Châteauroux awaiting scheduled E Class conversions, which will create around 60 tonnes of payload and a range of approximately 4,200nm.
Jonathan Skirrow, Deucalion Aviation’s co-CEO and COO said that, “The widebody freighter market outlook offers opportunities for proven platforms such as mid-life Airbus A330 aircraft to continue operations for many years to come.”
France-based Regio Lease is the associated CAMO (Continuing Airworthiness Management Organization) partner, while Deucalion Aviation is the asset manager of the first two aircraft to be converted into E-class configuration.
“Alongside our partners, UUDS, Deucalion Aviation Limited and Regio Lease, we’re now on our way to creating an Airbus A330 centre of excellence in the heart of France” stated Lebigot.