British Aerospace's Filton, UK-based division, BAe Aviation Services, flew its first converted Airbus A300B4 freighter on 23 January, and hopes to be able to secure approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration and UK Civil Aviation Authority approval by the end of March.

The conversion of the first aircraft, which is a 1980-build ex-Eastern Airlines B4-100 (serial number (s/n) 124) destined for UK-based cargo airline Channel Express, began in April 1996. Certification had originally been scheduled for the end of 1996.

According to Cliff Duke, managing director of BAe Aviation Services, paperwork is now with the FAA. "The recent freighter conversion issues in the USA have resulted in the FAA focusing sharply on the regulatory requirements," he says, adding that full supplemental type certification (STC) should be in place by the end of March, with the FAA and CAA processes running in parallel.

The first flight of s/n 124 lasted 50min, during which an altitude of 15,000ft (4,600m) was reached, to test the cabin pressurisation. The aircraft is now back in the hangar at Filton undergoing final work, but will undertake one more shakedown flight and two FAA/CAA test flights before certification.

Channel Express expects to introduce the 45t-payload aircraft into service by early April, initially between Gatwick and Tel Aviv, Israel, on behalf of British Airways.

The design of the BAe cargo door was carried out in the USA by Flight Structures, which will hold the STC design authority. The cargo door and its surround is manufactured at Filton, while US company AAR provides the cargo-handling system.

BAe holds firm orders for 11 conversions, including the single aircraft for Channel (plus three options) and ten A300B4-200s for US lessor C-S Aviation Services. BAe has the capacity to carry out around eight conversions a year at Filton and could offer additional US capacity through Timco's base at Greensboro, North Carolina.

Work has now begun on the second A300, an ex-Air France aircraft for C-S Aviation.

Source: Flight International