Despite the current gloom surrounding the cargo market, Airbus is optimistic that its passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversion programmes will take some strides forward. The airframer is seeing strong interest in a proposed P2F conversion for the A330-300, and is hopeful it will secure the first operator for its A320P2F programme by year-end.

Airbus, which already offers a new-build 64t payload freighter of the A330-200, is seeing "serious market interest" in a -300P2F from potential operators as well as owners looking to put their aircraft through conversion, says Airbus's head of freighter aircraft marketing Didier Lenormand.

The -300P2F, which is longer than the -200F, would have a payload of around 50-60t and is more of a volume- than payload-driven freighter, he adds. "It would be an ideal aircraft for high-volume intra-European cargo flights, for example," he says.

According to Flightglobal's ACAS database, there are currently some 275 A330-300 passenger aircraft in existence, the oldest of which is over 16 years old. Lenormand forecasts that a -300P2F could enter service in the 2012-14 timeframe, and does not rule out a launch order being in place by the end of next year.

Meanwhile, the Airbus Freighter Conversion (AFC) marketing effort for the A320P2F programme is running at full tilt.

The conversion has a list price of $4.2 million, with orders secured for 30 from lessor AerCap so far. Deliveries are due to begin in early 2012 and discussions are ongoing to sign up the first operator for the aircraft, says AFC vice-president marketing and sales Michael Fuerst: "We hope to announce the first operator before the end of this year."

AFC attended the Asian Aerospace 2009 exhibition to promote the A320 programme in the region, and Fuerst is optimistic that an Asian launch customer will be signed in the next year: "I think it is realistic that we'll get our first customer in this region in the first half of 2010," he says.

Fuerst thinks that the current economic turmoil means potential customers are waiting to see whether the region's recovery is truly under way before committing.

Source: Flight International