The first day of Singapore Airshow looked like an extension of Dubai Airshow as far as announcements of freighter conversions are concerned. Both Airbus (indirectly) and Boeing presented updates on their widebody conversion programs. Day 1 Singapore Airshow: more widebody freighter conversions.

Airbus, through its joint venture between Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW) and ST Engineering, announced a follow-on order for the A330P2F program. Lessor CDB Aviation has committed to twelve A330-300P2Fs. EFW is currently converting two aircraft for CBD, which will be leased on to Mexican logistics company MasAir.

The order from CDB confirms the growing interest in the A330 as a freighter platform. With its 60-61 tonnes payload capacity and a shorter range, the Airbus has been overshadowed by the success of the Boeing 777F and 767-300F. But as more and more (cheap) A330s are phased out from passenger service, they find a second life in the booming cargo and e-commerce market.

“The A330P2F program is proving highly popular, and we now have over eighty aircraft on order”, says Andreas Sperle, CEO of EFW. “To ensure we can meet the rising demand for freighter conversions, EFW and ST Engineering are in the process of ramping up their conversion capacity.”

Besides conversion capacity at EFW in Dresden (Germany) and with ST Engineering in Singapore, new lines will be opened at ST Engineering in Shanghai and at VT MAE in Mobile (Alabama, US). CDB’s aircraft will be the first on the Shanghai line. An unspecified number of aircraft will be placed with Sichuan Airlines and Jiangxi Cargo Airlines.

ST Engineering delivered the 50th 767-300BCF in December. (Boeing)

Boeing is adding a 767-300BCF line in China

Boeing is adding conversion capacity too. After announcing eight new lines for the 737-800BCF and two for the 767-300BCF programs last year for opening in 2022 and 2023, Boeing Global Services said in Singapore that it will open another line in China. ST Engineering in Guangzhou will open a line for the 767-300BCF. There are already two conversion lines for the type in Guangzhou but they are with GAMECO.

The 767-300BCF has won 101 orders. Last December, ST Engineering delivered the 50th converted freighter. Opening an extra line confirms the confidence of Boeing in the MRO specialist, said BGS President and CEO Ted Colbert in a media statement: “ST Engineering has been an MRO supplier for more than forty 767-300BCF conversions and their technical expertise and commitment to the program is recognized and greatly appreciated.”

Like the A330, the 767 is enjoying popularity in a booming freighter market, as is the 777. Triple Seven conversions are offered by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and its partners Sharp Techniks in South Korea and Etihad Engineering in Abu Dhabi, but the program is only in its early stages with work on the first aircraft in progress in Tel Aviv.

Future of new 767 freighters still undecided

Notably, Boeing and also Airbus are benefitting from demand for new full freighters. Airbus launched the A350F last July and so far has won orders and commitments for 22 aircraft. Boeing launched the 777-8 Freighter on January 31 with a launch order from Qatar Airways for 34 aircraft plus sixteen options. The 767-300F is also doing well and won 38 orders last year.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal reportedly said in a media briefing in Singapore that he expects demand for the 767 to continue this year. According to Aviation Week, he said that Boeing is still undecided on how the 767 should meet the new ICAO emission rules for current aircraft models that come into effect on January 1, 2028. One option that is seriously contemplated is requesting an exemption to the rule for the 767-300F.

In an interview with AirInsight in late January, Director of Product Marketing Tom Sanderson also said that Boeing has different options on the table for the 767 but that it hasn’t made a final decision yet.  

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Richard Schuurman
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Active as journalist since 1987, starting with regional newspaper Zwolse Courant. Grand Prix reporter in 1997 at Dutch monthly Formule 1, general reporter Lelystad/Flevoland at De Stentor/Dagblad Flevoland, from 2002 until June 2021 radio/tv reporter/presentor with Omroep Flevoland.
Since mid-2016 freelance aviation journalist, since June 2021 fully dedicated to aviation. Reporter/editor AirInsight since December 2018. Contributor to Airliner World, Piloot & Vliegtuig. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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