DHL Airways has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Airbus Industrie for the acquisition of seven used A300B4 freighters for its US express-parcels network, and could later add additional aircraft for its European operations.

The airline will take delivery of the seven aircraft, which are General Electric CF6-50C2 powered ex-Thai Airways International examples, between the second half of 1998, and the end of 1999. DHL has yet to decide between Daimler Benz Aerospace Airbus and British Aerospace Aviation Services for the freighter conversions. Both companies expect to achieve US Federal Aviation approvals for their A300 conversions later this year.

The Airbuses will supplement DHL's fleet of seven McDonnell Douglas DC-8s and 20 Boeing 727s, operating from its hub in Cincinatti, Ohio. DHL says that the A300s will be used to serve main US business centres, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and possibly points in Mexico. The aircraft can accommodate a payload of over 43,000kg, in 20 DHL containers.

Thai's seven A300B4s were delivered between 1979 and 1985 and will be traded back to Airbus early in 1998 as part of the airline's order for new A300-600Rs and A330-300s. The three B4-100s in the package will be upgraded to -200s during conversion.

The deal follows recent approval from the Thai Government for its flag carrier's five-year re-equipment plan, which will finally allow the airline to go ahead with its order for a mix of 21 new Airbus and Boeing aircraft.

DHL's European network is operated from its Brussels hub with Boeing 727s, and the company is planning to add widebody freighters, with the A300 being evaluated along with the A310 and Boeing 757/767.

Source: Flight International