First A321 conversion enters service

By Damian Brett

The first A321 freighter converted by Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW) has begun commercial operations with Qantas for Australia Post.

The ‘head of version’ A321-200 converted freighter (MSN 835) began flying for Qantas on October 27 after it was re-delivered to its owner, lessor Vallair in September.

“Both milestones marked the completion and ‘birth’ of the world’s first A321 converted freighter,” EFW parents ST Engineering and Airbus said in a press release. 

Jeffrey Lam, president of ST Engineering’s Aerospace sector, said: “The completion of our first A321P2F also comes at a timely manner, as the programme can help airlines breathe a second life into underutilised aircraft, which would otherwise suffer a harder landing in their residual value.

“With the A321P2F platform being the best-in-class for its size category – having 55% more volumetric capacity than its nearest competitor – we are confident that the programme will be a great success in the freighter market.”

“The A321 is the future of freighter conversions,” said Gregoire Lebigot, Vallair chief executive. “Not only is this freighter variant better for the environment due to its 20% reduction in fuel burn, but it offers enhanced performance across range, payload and volume with a unique capacity for fourteen container positions in the upper deck and ten more on the containerised lower cargo deck.”

EFW had received the original Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for the A321P2F from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in February this year, and the Validation STC from the US Federal Aviation Administration in July.

Operator specific enhancements were subsequently incorporated into the freighter and certified prior to its re-delivery.

The A321P2F is the first in its size category to offer containerised loading in both the main (up to 14 full container positions) and lower deck (up to 10 container positions).

Payload-range capability mean that more than 28 metric tons can be carried over 2,300 nautical miles.

To meet rising demand for dedicated freighter aircraft, ST Engineering and EFW are planning to set up additional modification sites in China, Germany and the US by 2023 to ramp up conversion capacity to about 23 slots per year.

Vallair said that a number of future aircraft deliveries already scheduled and its narrow body cargo conversion programme is experiencing firm interest from “well-established and forward-looking freight operators worldwide”.

A lease agreement with SmartLynx Malta for two newly converted A321-200 freighters was recently concluded and last week Vallair announced a deal with GlobalX, the new Miami-based airline, who have signed an LoI to lease ten A321F conversions which will be delivered and operational by Spring 2023.

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