US joint venture enters the A321 conversion fray

Erickson Group’s Precision Aircraft Solutions (PAS) arm and Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) subsidiary Cargo Aircraft Management (CAM) have joined the race to develop a passenger-to-freighter conversion of Airbus A321-200 aircraft.
The new venture, 321 Precision Conversions, aims to gain type approval for A321-200 conversions in 2019. PAS began a feasibility study on an A321-200 conversion in late 2011 and full-scale engineering for STC development began in the third quarter of 2016. 
It said the 321 Precision Conversions’ A321-200 freighter would fulfil replacement and growth needs in the narrow-body freighter market, delivering cube space commensurate to Boeing 757 freighters, but with operating costs comparable to smaller Boeing 737 freighters, making it attractive to air express operators.
The A321-200 is a variant of the Airbus A320 family of aircraft. The first A321-200  entered passenger service in 1997 as a longer-range successor to the A321-100 with a total of 1,425 Airbus of the type now in use.
PAS and ATSG have worked together since 2007, PAS redelivered the first of four converted Boeing 757-200PCF freighters to CAM. In 2011, PAS developed, certified and produced a Boeing 757-200PCC combined passenger/freighter (combi) variant for CAM.
Erickson Group president Steven Thomas commented: “This strategic alliance with ATSG for the A321-200 program underscores our complementary business models and our long history of positive business dealings over the years. We look forward to bringing this product to the market together.”
ATSG president and chief executive Joe Hete added: “Expanding our fleet to include A321-200 freighters in that segment of the market through this new partnership with Precision will supplement the shareholder value we create in the future. Our decade-long relationship with Precision for 757 conversions gives me confidence that we will bring to market another high-quality, cost-effective freighter and reliable asset to a customer segment that demands very high performance.”
The new joint venture will not have the market to itself, however. In February 2016, PACAVI Group and Guangzhou Aircraft Maintenance Engineering announced that they were on track to being the first to market an Airbus A320/321 passenger to conversion programme during 2017.
They already faced competition from another joint venture, between Singapore Technolgies Aerospace and Dresden-based Elbe Flugzeugwerke.

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