ANDREW DOYLE / SINGAPORE
Asian carrier on verge of choosing new-build A300-600 freighters rather than converting passenger aircraft for cargo
Cathay Pacific Airways and DHL Worldwide Express joint venture Air Hong Kong are poised to opt for new-build Airbus A300-600 Freighters to meet its regional cargo requirement.
An internal evaluation of fleet options by the partner companies has come out in favour of acquiring new A300s rather than converted passenger aircraft or Boeing 767-300Fs, and Air Hong Kong aims to finalise an order for around six of the twinjets for delivery from 2004, say industry sources.
The selection is subject to the completion of contract negotiations with Airbus and approval by the Air Hong Kong board. The engine business will be competed between General Electric and Pratt & Whitney offering the CF6-80C2 and PW4158 turbofans, respectively.
Converted A300s are being proposed by Dresden-based EADS-EFW, a wholly owned subsidiary of Airbus 80%-shareholder EADS and the only specialist with a certificated A300-600 passenger-to-freighter (PTF) conversion.
Arlington, Washington-based B/E Aerospace subsidiary Flight Structures recently purchased BAE Systems' A300B4 PTF modification line but is yet to announce plans for entering the -600 market.
United Parcel Service is the only outstanding customer for new-build A300-600s and has so far received 24 of the 90 freighters it has on firm order.
Air Hong Kong may lease in additional interim capacity before deliveries of the new A300s begin. It has already wet-leased an A300B4-200F from Express.Net Airlines for services to Tokyo.
DHL agreed to take a 30% stake in Air Hong Kong in October 2002. Under the plans, Air Hong Kong will buy a fleet of medium-range widebodies to serve DHL's express-packages network from Hong Kong to major Asia Pacific cities.
Five regional freighters are due to be in service by 2004, growing to "at least eight" aircraft by 2010. DHL has a contract to develop and operate the Express Cargo Terminal at Hong Kong International Airport.
Source: Flight International