Netherlands-based leasing company AerCap yesterday signed a $140 million contract to convert 30 of its A320/A321s into freighters. The passenger-to-freighter (P2F) work will be carried out by Airbus Freighter Conversion (AFC).

“The A320 and A321P2Fs are setting new standards in the feeder freighter market,” says Klaus Heinemann, AerCap chief executive. “This order will strengthen and expand our portfolio with the most, and only, modern aircraft in the small freighter segment.”

He says it is the “perfect time” to launch the project as nearly all of the global fleet of 550 freighters in this category were previous-generation aircraft that are heavy on fuel and big on CO2 emissions. The A320P2F is typically aimed to replace DC-9 and 727 freighters.


“In the freighter fleet there is a significant need to update the fleet and make it more fuel-efficient and more efficient from the perspective of CO2 emissions,” he said. “This is the perfect time to address the issue.” Heinemann also believes the conversion programme will add an average of 10 years to an aircraft’s life.

AFC chief executive Lars Becker believes some 400 Airbus single-aisle aircraft will undergo conversation between 2012 and 2026. The first A320 P2F will be ready in 2011 and the aim is to convert around 30 aircraft a year.

Once the aircraft has been certificated, work will be carried out in Russia by partner Irkut. “At the moment we are preparing a platform for P2F conversion, which will be located in Zhukovsky.” says Alexey Fedorov, president of UAC.

Having placed the launch order of 30 aircraft for A320/321 P2F conversions worth €1.35-1.4billion, AerCap is ready to expand its order portfolio, taking freighters coming off from both Dresden and Zhukovsky assembly lines.

Heinemann says Russia is now single largest customer country for the Netherland-based lessor, with five airlines operating aircraft under lease from AerCap.

Heinemann believes the A320P2F will outperform the 737 Classic Freighter: “The A320 has slightly more cargo capacity. Importantly, it is more fuel efficient than the Boeing 737 Classics and it allows you to have containable lower deck. The 737 cannot do that.”

But the larger A321P2F is not a direct rival to the Boeing 757 Freighter, he adds. “The A321F will only be partially competing with the 757F. I anticipate in many cases the A321P2F will be complementing, rather than replacing, the 757F.”

Source: Flight International