DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (Dasa) Airbus is to launch an A300-600 passenger-to-freighter conversion programme, once again pitching it in direct competition for cargo work with fellow Airbus Industrie partner BAE Systems Aviation Services.
The German company will formally announce its plans to expand into the A300-600 market next month, say industry sources. It aims to begin the first conversion by the end of the year.
The move is a surprise because Dasa Airbus said previously that it would not expand its capabilities to include this model if BAE launched a programme of its own, claiming that the market could not support two players.
BAE began preparatory work last year to secure an A300-600 supplemental type certificate in anticipation of demand building up from 2003.
Industry sources, however, say the pair are competing head-to-head for an initial two-aircraft A300-600 conversion contract from an unspecified customer.
Dasa Airbus and BAE have operated rival A300B4 programmes for several years. The two companies held discussions on combining these businesses last year, although no agreement was reached. About 100 A300B4 conversions have been undertaken or committed to, and the number of aircraft suitable for modification is becoming limited. This factor, combined with the fact that the oldest A300-600s are 15 years of age (making good conversion prospects), has prompted the move.
The German company has converted 39 A310-200s for FedEx, and has announced plans to begin modifying longer-range A310-300s for commercial customers later this year. UPS Airlines, a key customer for new A300-600Fs, is expected to top up its fleet with converted secondhand -600s later.
Dasa carries out the work in co-operation with Aerospatiale Matra's Sogerma subsidiary, and the partners plan to integrate their cargo conversion and maintenance activities into a single division with the creation of European Aeronautic, Defence and Space later this year.
Source: Flight International