Airbus Freighter Conversion dissolved
Citing increased demand for A320 passenger craft, Airbus has terminated its development program for the A320/A321 passenger-to-freighter conversion and dissolved Airbus Freighter Conversion.
Airbus Freighter Conversion GmbH, a joint venture among Airbus EADS EFW and two Russian partners, was formed in 2007.
According to an Airbus news release, the joint venture partners stopped the program because "strongly growing passenger traffic results in high demand for used A320 Family aircraft, thus reducing the amount of aircraft available for conversion."
There were customers out there, however. In 2008, AerCap Holdings placed an order for 30 A320 and A321 freighters. The company intended to present the first freighter for certification sometime this year.
After the order, Lars Becker, Airbus Freighter Conversion's CEO, made a bold prediction for A320 conversions. "Based on the competencies and capabilities of our parent companies UAC, Irkut, Airbus and EADS-EFW," he said, "we in AFC anticipate converting about 400 aircraft into freighters until 2026.”
West Atlantic, which had three freighters on order and the option for a few additional planes, was expecting its first A320 toward the end of next year. expressed his regret. A company spokesman told Air Cargo World that while the leasing firm has no clients lined up for the freighters, it was actively talking with customers.
In an email, Russel Ladkin, West Atlantic's sales director, expressed his disappointment at the news.
"This is a disappointment," Ladkin wrote. "With increasing fuel costs, an efficient freighter was a key part of the decision process to select the A320 over the established competing products. Lowest unit cost is everything, and we'll now be working with our customers to find the right solution for the capacity niche we saw the A320 fill."
One day before Airbus shut down the conversion program, the company delivered an A320 to International Airlines Group for use by British Airways. In the past two months, Yemen Airways and easyJet both took delivery of A320s.
The company also announced in May that it will ramp up monthly production of A320 planes by six starting in the fourth quarter of 2012.
“The low operating costs and high dispatch reliability offered by the A320 Family make it the best seller in its market,” Tom Williams, executive vice president, programmes, for Airbus, said at the time. “With a backlog of over 2,300 A320 Family aircraft to deliver, we need to increase production to accommodate continuing strong customer demand for these new eco-efficient aircraft”.