EADS fleshes out Russian freighter work with United Aircraft

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EADS and Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) have fleshed out their 2007 agreement to convert A320/321s into freighters by signing two follow-up contracts with combined value of $360 million.

One contract envisages carrying out a design work by UAC and EADS' wholly-owned subsidiaries Airbus and Elbe Flugzeugwerke within the framework of joint venture company Airbus Freighter Conversion.

Under the other contract, UAC constituent firm NPK Irkut will supply kits to fit out A320 cargo models at Elbe Flugzeugwerke in Dresden.

The partners are expecting to produce the first prototype of the converted Airbus freighter in 2011. Potential demand for the type is estimated at 400 units until 2025 and combined maximum annual output at 40 freighters to be produced in Dresden and at a designated Russian facility.

NPK Irkut president Oleg Demchenko says its Irkutsk factory is set to begin serial manufacture of components to equip A320Fs after receiving necessary certification from Airbus.

Under the 2007 agreement, conversion work was to start simultaneously in Dresden and at a MiG plant in Lukhovitsy, east off Moscow, which remained idle after the Tupolev Tu-334 programme was abandoned.

But EADS representative in Moscow, Vadim Vlasov, says Elbe Flugzeugwerke will be the first to launch the project in 2010. He explains that UAC has notified EADS about reassigning work on ageing A320s to an underused Myasishchev facility at nearby Zhukovsky.

This change of site may lead to a delay of up to one and a half years in getting A320 conversions underway in Russia.