Air Hong Kong is to be the launch customer for a new variant of the Airbus A300-600F freighter designed to handle general freight.

The Cathay Pacific Airways and DHL Worldwide Express-owned all-cargo airline confirmed the expected deal last week, with an order for six new-build aircraft for delivery from 2004 and four options. It will be the launch customer for the A300-600F General Freighter, which differs from the existing A300-600F in that it has a cargo loading system and side door capable of handling both large items of general freight and small packages.

Deliveries will be between mid-2004 and early 2005. An engine selection has yet to be made between the competing powerplant offerings by General Electric and Pratt & Whitney.

Cathay originally planned to acquire used A300-600Fs for Air Hong Kong that were converted from passenger configurations, but decided recently to opt for new-build aircraft from Airbus (Flight International, 7-13 January).

The order is part of a shift in focus for Air Hong Kong, which has traditionally operated larger Boeing 747 freighters. The switch to smaller aircraft is part of a plan to refocus operations on regional services rather than on long-haul flights, which Cathay has brought back into its own dedicated freighter operation.

Source: Flight International