According to Jon Howey, director of sales, aircraft conversion, for EADS EFW, the present conversion market is difficult, and the outlook may not change in the near future. EADS is halfway through an 18-plane deal for DHL, replacing its fleet with A300-600 conversions, but other than that, the immediate conversion prospects are slim, he said. Long-term prospects, though, are a different thing altogether.
Howey sees a lot of demand coming in the form of mid-size freighters, and believes the coming replacement needs will be great. FedEx still has a big fleet of MD-10s, and there are large numbers of A300-600s and A310-200s and 300s still on the market.
“All of those will come up for replacement sometime in the not too distant future. They’re concentrated in the integrator fleets, but they’re quite popular in general cargo as well,” he told Air Cargo World. “So we would see a strong replacement need. “
Regionally, Howey said conversion growth will come from emerging markets. The Asia-Pacific region will fuel demand for a number of conversion types; China, he said, could need large planes for domestic and regional use. Finally, there is increasing demand for A330-200 conversions in Latin America.
Growth will also come in the form of new conversion types. Howey said the A330-200F is doing well in the market, and its coming conversion program will benefit from this solid level of sales. He senses that the coming program will “compliment the family,” mirroring the A300-600 and its corresponding conversion.
So though the conversion market seems a bit off right now, Howey is hopeful for improved prospects in the coming months. While growth might not come quickly, a ramp up in conversions seems likely.
“There will always be a need for conversions, and there will always be a need for new freighters. Dynamics will change over the coming years,” he told Air Cargo World. “It’s really replacements and emerging market growth that we see for the future.”