Sweden's West Air to launch Bombardier 30-day CRJ200 freighter conversion, Cascade to undertake Package Freighter work

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By David Kaminski-Morrow in London and Darren Shannon in Washington, DC

Swedish cargo operator West Air Sweden is to become an initial customer for the Bombardier CRJ200 converted freighter, and plans to take two aircraft next year.

Bombardier is in talks with British Colombia-based Cascade Aerospace to design, certify and build the CRJ200 cargo conversion kit for the programme.

It is to introduce the aircraft, which were formerly part of the Lufthansa regional fleet, in April 2007

The acquisition comes as part of the Gothenburg-based carrier’s decision to step up to jet operations – a switch which will also see it introduce a British Aerospace 146 freighter in October.

West Air Sweden has so far remained an all-turboprop carrier with a fleet of British Aerospace ATP, Hawker Siddeley 748 and ATR 72 aircraft.

But a spokesman for West Air says: “We have parcel and mail routes where the demand and the timing are such that we need to be faster.”

He says that the Swedish firm will be purchasing the CRJ freighters and the ex-Ansett BAe 146.

Earlier this year Bombardier said that it was in talks with two companies as it sought a customer for the 30-day CRJ conversion programme.

West Air is also expanding its ATP fleet with several more examples of the type including three acquired from Danish regional carrier Sun-Air.

The negotiations with Cascade are still ongoing, although are at an advanced stage, says a source close to the deal. This source also says Bombardier will confirm the West Air contract later today, which will launch the Package Freighter (PF) project first reported in May by Flight International.

Cascade’s cargo conversion kit, which will still be sold exclusively by Bombardier, includes the stripping of all passenger elements of the cabin, the installation of protective flooring, fuselage liners, ceiling panels and fire and smoke suppressants, as well as some minor structural modifications, says the source.

In the all-cargo configuration, the CRJ200PF aircraft will have a cargo volume of approximately 48.2 litres (1,700ft3) and payload of 6,350kg (14,000lb). Maximum takeoff weight will be 24,000kg, the same as the high gross weight version of the CRJ200 aircraft.

The source says converted aircraft will still be able to operate under the CRJ200’s type certification. Cascade will have to obtain supplemental type certificate for its kit.

The conversion of a CRJ200 is understood to take 30 days. Costs are estimated at about $500,000 per aircraft at list price.

Bombardier previously estimated that around 25-50 of its 50-seat jets could be converted to package freighters.

Neither Bombardier, Cascade nor West Air were immediately available for comment.