The prototype A321P2F (passenger to freighter) cargo conversion aircraft has undertaken its inaugural flight in Singapore as part of the certification process to reach conversion approval status. Vallair, a mature aircraft and asset specialist, has placed this first A321P2F aircraft conversion (MSN835) with Qantas, the first airline in the world to operate the A321 as a freighter aircraft. The A321P2F is designed to add nearly 50% more capacity compared to the existing fleet and is due to be delivered in July 2020.
Gregoire Lebigot, president & CEO at Vallair, foresees a growing demand. “The A321P2F will be the first aircraft to introduce a containerised lower deck to the market segment of narrow-body freighters; a significant game-changer for any hub and spoke operation. We see a huge potential for this aircraft as a key tool for the cargo industry to achieve the projected growth rate of the air freight market in general, particularly express services and e-commerce. Additionally, the substantial fuel efficiency advantages are well-suited to 1-4 hour flight legs.
Lebigot added, “We have invested in a fleet of feed-stock A321 aircraft and our team continues to work with exceptional dedication to bring this programme to fruition. We anticipate that a mature production line for conversion will settle at around four months and we are already in negotiations with other airlines and operators/lessees keen to upgrade their freighter fleets.”
The aircraft development was co-ordinated by freighter design and conversion house, EFW (a joint venture between ST Aerospace and Airbus) and the project has taken close to two years to transition from prototype to in-service aircraft. The project began with Vallair’s cargo conversion division performing a technical assessment of potential candidate aircraft, and then managing and overseeing the entire conversion process as it is performed by one of its global conversion design partners. Vallair has awarded a contract to EFW to convert a further 10 A321-200 passenger aircraft over the next two years.