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05 February 2009
05. February 2009 Commercial Aircraft

A new role for the A320 Family: small freighters for the worldwide express cargo market


The development of P2F (passenger-to-freighter) versions of Airbus' A320 and A321 is progressing under the management of a multi-national joint venture, with the first aircraft's conversion process targeted for 2011.

Development work for the transition of A320 Family passenger aircraft to freighters is progressing in a multi-national effort that targets the first aircraft's conversion process in 2011.

The P2F (passenger-to-freighter) versions of Airbus' A320 and A321 will provide a modern solution for the small freighter market segment, offering highly capable cargo aircraft for the growing express cargo market worldwide.

Development of the A320/A321P2F conversion is managed by the Airbus Freighter Conversion (AFC) joint venture, located in the German city of Dresden. Germany's EADS EFW and Airbus hold a combined 50 per cent of AFC, while Russian aerospace holding UAC (United Aircraft Corporation) and the Irkut Russian aerospace corporation each hold 25 per cent shares.

Since last summer, a team that includes 80 Irkut engineers has been developing a conversion solution‚ starting with the A320 version. Airbus engineers are supporting this team‚ familiarising the members with European aviation regulations, as well as Airbus' way of working.

Irkut and EADS EFW are responsible for the P2F conversion's detailed design‚ while Airbus is handling the non-specific design aspects‚ as well as design validation and certification.

Changes required for the A320/A321 passenger-to-freighter transition include the installation of a large cargo door on the aft fuselage, and reinforcement of the cabin floor. In addition, a cargo loading system is incorporated, and cockpit systems are modified.

These updates are being developed using 3D tools, as well as the fuselage of a former Air France A320 that allows the changes to be validated with real hardware.

In their new P2F configuration, the A320/A321 freighters will be able to carry from 21 to 28 metric tonnes of payload, operating over ranges up to 2,100 naut. mi./3,700 km.

The conversion's launch customer is Aer Cap, which signed a firm contract last July to convert 30 of the Netherlands-based leasing company’s A320/A321s into freighters.

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