The passenger-to-cargo conversion programme for Airbus A320s has achieved a major milestone by completing its technical definition phase, with the aircraft's details presented today to an international customer working group meeting in Miami, Florida.
Developed to meet the requirements for a new-generation aircraft capable of both express cargo and general market freighter operations, the A320P2F is targeted to enter service from 2012, when many of the world's current single-aisle freighters will be 40 years old.
The A320P2F - and its longer-fuselage A321P2F version - will utilise aircraft that have completed their useful lives as passenger jetliners, and will be transformed to the freighter configuration by the Airbus Freighter Conversion (AFC) joint venture in Germany. This process includes incorporating a large 121-inch wide cargo door in the aft fuselage, installing a new reinforced main deck floor, and integrating cargo loading systems.
Launch customer for the P2F programme is the Netherlands-based Aer Cap leasing company, which has signed to convert 30 A320/A321 passenger aircraft in its portfolio to freighters. The A320P2F aircraft will carry up to 21-22 metric tonnes of cargo on the main deck and in its lower cargo holds, with the total payload increasing to as much as 28 tonnes for the A321.
Advantages of A320s and A321s in the new freighter role include their modern design - providing high efficiency and performance, as well as low noise and emissions. These two jetliners' total cockpit and operational commonality offer excellent new levels of flexibility in aircraft scheduling, allowing them to be interchanged when needed in matching an airline's cargo lift with actual loads, while maintaining the same flight crews.
Another plus for the A320/A321P2F programme is Airbus' key role in this conversion process, guaranteeing the company's resources throughout the design and development phase, along with comprehensive support - which includes delivering the aircraft complete with fully-integrated handbooks and operating manuals.
In addition to being the first fly-by-wire cargo aircraft in their category, the A320/A321 approval for ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards) enable the aircraft to serve routes that are off-limits to other similarly-sized freighters.
Potential market applications for the A320/A321P2F include the ASEAN region, where service from such hubs as Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Brunei can reach northern Australia, the Indian mainland and other destinations. The aircraft also have the range and payload capability for key Australasia routes that include Perth-Sydney.
The A320/A321P2F is well tailored as replacements for ageing single-aisle freighters on Canadian feeder segments linking remote destinations of the country, as well for operations that feed cargo service between the United States and Latin America.
Routes in emerging regions throughout central Asia also can be well served by the A320/A321P2F, as the economies of nations such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan evolve in the coming years to levels that will support small freighter operations.