Airbus are maintaining there is a market for the A380 freighter conversion despite the fact that some appraisers doubt that the A380 passenger aircraft can be successfully switched to the freighter role in the longer term through after-market conversions.
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Well, there are two ways this might happen. Firstly - Airbus could dust off its production freighter design should UPS or FedEx or someone else come calling again in the future. Secondly, when customers of the passenger aircraft want to upgrade in 12 ~ 20 years Airbus will not want the revenue income gained from supporting these aircraft to be lost due to their retirement - so it is probable they will offer a passenger-to-freighter conversion.
As far as developing a production freighter is concerned - it depends on Airbus being able to offer a product that delivers some new benefit to the cargo airlines. Extra range is nice - if you get it at full payload and there is enough of it allow you to bypass some "freight hub" that your competitors can't bypass. But the real trick is probably to offer a more economic method of transporting the freight in a given network and to avoid load factor imbalances on the network. The A380 may not be the aircraft to solve these issues and the cargo market may not mature sufficiently to justify its payload capacity soon enough to support the production freighter. But future evolutions of the A380 may possibly present the economics sought by the airlines...
The cargo conversion of the existing A380 is inevitable at some future point but there are some big technical challenges to overcome and in my view the converted aircraft will be a different beast than the production freighter that Airbus offered. The upper deck in particular will not be positioned at the same as the production freighter compromising the pallet height on the upper deck. Also, the cost of conversion will be stratospheric compared to previous experience due to the double deck floor strengthening required and increased provision of systems for fire resistance and cargo loading.
My belief is that the conversion will eventually be offered while the production freighter is a 50/50 bet. If Airbus wants to capture a proper slice of the large aircraft cargo market - it needs to offer the airlines a step-chage proposition in capability and efficiency to elbow its way into territory that has been developed around the Boeing 747 and is now being morphed to accept the 777F as well.