Airbus Freighter Conversion has pushed back the target certification date for its A320 passenger-to-freighter conversion programme from late-2011 to mid-2012 to provide more time to complete engineering work on the project.
Widebody freighter conversions are currently carried out by EADS subsidiary EFW in Germany under a supplemental type certificate, but the single-aisle A320P2F project marks the entry of Airbus into the market in its own right.
"There have been some minor changes on the engineering side," says AFC marketing manager Anja Schwarze, speaking at the ILA Berlin Air Show. "It's a new process - Airbus hasn't been involved in conversions so far."
AFC last year decided to relocate the aircraft's large cargo door from the forward fuselage to the rear, which Schwarze says is better for optimising the centre-of-gravity, "but the structure is a bit different at the back". There have also been changes to the courier area at the request of the launch customer, lessor AerCap, she adds.
The A320/A321P2F was launched in 2008 with an order for 30 conversions from AerCap. Conversion of the first A320 is due to begin in at EFW in Dresden next year. Work on the first larger A321 model is scheduled to start a year later.
Schwarze says that the project partners are "all in discussions to identify the launch operator. We basically have two markets: one is the replacement market in North America where there are a large number of Boeing 727 freighters still flying, but Asia is really interesting in terms of emerging industries."
EFW is expected to convert the first seven to eight aircraft in the new programme and complete a majority of the conversions until 2015, at which point the work will be shared on a 50/50 basis with Russian partner United Aircraft (UAC), which will open a modification line in Ulyanovsk.
With over 4,000 A320s produced to date Airbus expects a steady feedstock and increasing demand as an estimated 500 narrowbody freighters will need to be replaced over the next 20 years.