UPDATE – ST Engineering has placed the first five Airbus A320P2F converted freighters with a customer. Vaayu Group, which announced the lease of the aircraft from ST Engineering Aerospace Resources in November, has placed the aircraft with Kenyan cargo operator Astral Aviation, it said on February 14 ahead of the Singapore Airshow. Astral Aviation to become first operator of the Airbus A320P2F.
The A320 Passenger-to-Freighter is a project of ST Engineering and Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW), the joint venture between ST and Airbus. The first A320P2F (MSN2737) made its maiden flight out of ST’s Singapore site on December 8, 2021, after an eight-month conversion. The aircraft is currently doing flight testing to get a Supplemental Type Certificate from EASA, which is expected to take until the second quarter. The first A320P2F will then be placed on lease.
Until now, it is the A321 that has been offered for P2F conversions. The A320P2F is smaller, of course, but still offers a cargo capacity of ten ULD containers and one pallet on the main deck, plus seven ULD containers in the belly hold. The total payload capacity is 21 tonnes or 159 cubic meters of usable space, giving the aircraft a range of some 3.330 kilometers.
The bigger A321P2F has space for fourteen ULD containers, 27 tonnes, and 208 cubic meters of usable space, and ten containers in the cargo hold. The A321P2F entered service in 2020. The P2Fs come with a cargo door and cargo loading system. French specialist Vallair also offers conversion of the A321ceo family. ST Engineering and EFW also offer conversions for the Airbus A330-family.
This graphic shows the modifications that are done on the A320-family Passenger-to-Freighter. (EFW)
For Astral, the A320P2Fs are the first Airbus aircraft in the fleet, which consists of fourteen, mostly older aircraft like the Fokker F27 Friendship, the McDonnell-Douglas DC-9, the Boeing 727, Bombardier CRJ-200F, Boeing 767-200F, and Boeing 747-400F. The arrival of the Airbus will be a turning point, said CEO Sanjeev Gadhia: “The Airbus range of freighter aircraft is impressive and will add immense value to Astral’s fleet and network expansion, which will result in Astral considering future freighter aircraft acquisitions of the A320, A321, A330-300, and A350.” This would mean the airline is considering adding even the newest Airbus freighter to its fleet, the A350F.
At the 2018 Singapore Airshow, ST Engineering signed a Letter of Intent for the conversion of ten A320s with investor Guangdong Aerocity. The LoI expired at the end of that year and hasn’t been taken up.
On Day 2 of Singapore Airshow, EFW announced an order from SmartLynx for six A321P2Fs. Conversions are scheduled for 2022 and 2023 and will be done at ST Engineering in China and Singapore.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.