ST Aerospace has started engineering work on the Airbus A330 passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversion programme, but has yet to secure a launch customer because of reasons including a weak cargo market.
"We're taking time to make sure we have a good launch customer, there's no need to rush. Airlines are definitely more cautious in this economy and adopting a wait and see attitude," its president Chang Cheow Teck tells Flight Daily News at the Paris air show.
The Singapore-based maintenance repair and overhaul firm had earlier said it hopes to secure a launch customer for the programme by end-2012, and that Qatar Airways is one carrier it is in talks with.
"The launch customer timeline has changed because of the market situation but that doesn't slow down our design efforts. The A330 has always been a long term investment project for us," says Chang.
ST Aerospace is now pulling technical data of the aircraft, and should be able to decide whether to launch the programme with the -200 or -300 variant at the Singapore air show next February, he adds.
The first prototype aircraft will be inducted in the third quarter of 2015 and its supplemental type certification obtained in 2017.
Chang expects there to be at least 1,100 A330s suitable for conversion by 2017, and for the residual values of the aircraft type to pick up in 2018.
"The A330 residual value is not at the right levels yet for people to seriously contemplate putting money into cargo conversion," he adds.
EADS and ST Aero formally launched the A330P2F conversion programme in May 2012.