Work on the first A320 passenger-to-freighter conversion has begun at German MRO provider Haitec Aircraft Maintenance under a programme led by US engineering and asset management firm Pacific Aviation & Lease Management.

San Diego-headquartered PacAvi Group launched its "A320/A321 Freighter Lite" programme in September 2014 and is collaborating with aftermarket specialists – including Haitec, US-based AeroTurbine and China's Guangzhou Aircraft Maintenance Engineering – on the conversion work.

Now, a 1992-vintage A320 (MSN 293) has been inducted into Haitec's facility at Hahn airport to serve as prototype for the conversion programme with the aim of gaining supplemental type certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency and US Federal Aviation Administration in 2016, says PacAvi.

The CFM International CFM56-5A1-powered twinjet was initially delivered to Air Malta, later transferred to Air Mediterranee, and last operated by Greece's Hermes Airlines in 2014, Flightglobal's Ascend Fleets database shows.

AeroTurbine parent AerCap, a Dutch-based lessor, was the main customer for Airbus Group's own passenger-to-freighter programme for A320s and A321s, which was scrapped in 2011, three years after its launch and just before work started on the first aircraft.

That initiative was a joint venture with Russian aerospace firms United Aircraft and Irkut, with the latter acting as conversion centre. However, some aircraft, including the prototype, were going to be modified at Airbus Group's conversion centre EFW in Dresden.

PacAvi's engineering office and European headquarters is located in that German city, while there is a second bureau in Bremen.

Once the STC has been granted, PacAvi aims to "dominate" the A320/A321 passenger-to-freighter market which, it says, will generate 50 to 60 conversions a year. Haitec plans to modify around 12 aircraft a year, while AeroTurbine's MRO facility in Arizona will also convert aircraft. Passenger-to-freighter conversions of Boeing 757s have already been conducted at that Goodyear site.

GAMECO is "latest addition" to the "global family of freighter conversion partners", says PacAvi chief executive Stephan Hollmann. When the STC has been issued, he says, "our plan is to grow fast".

Under the programme, both A320s and A321s will be equipped with a 121in (307cm) wide main deck cargo doors just aft of the forward left passenger entry. While the A320 will accommodate 10 unit load devices on the main deck, the A321 is to hold 13 ULDs.

AeroTurbine's asset management division AdviseAer will source aircraft for the conversion programme.

When PacAvi launched its A320/A321 passenger-to-freighter programme, Hollmann said the project would not depend on support from Airbus.

Source: Cirium Dashboard