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AA09: Airbus sees 'serious interest' in A330-300 freighter conversion

Airbus is seeing strong interest for a passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversion of the A330-300 twinjet and says deliveries could begin as early as 2012 should a launch customer be secured.

The airframer, which already offers a new-build 64t payload freighter version of the A330-200, is seeing "serious market interest" in a -300P2F from potential operators and owners looking to put their aircraft through conversion, says Airbus's head of freighter aircraft marketing Didier Lenormand.

The -300P2F, which is longer than the -200F, would have a payload of around 50-60t and is more of a volume- than payload-driven freighter, he adds. "It would be an ideal aircraft for high-volume intra-European cargo flights, for example," he says.

According to Flightglobal's ACAS database, there are 275 A330-300 passenger aircraft, the oldest of which is over 16 years old. Lenormand forecasts that a -300P2F could enter service in 2012-14, and does not rule out a launch order being in place by the end of next year.

Lenormand says that another "good selling point" for the A330-300P2F is the cockpit commonality it can offer a cargo operator with the A320P2F family single-aisle freighter, which is already in development. "It has been a big seller for the passenger aircraft so is also good for the cargo airlines."

Airbus Freighter Conversion has orders for 30 A320P2F conversions from lessor AerCap for delivery from early 2012. Discussions are ongoing to sign the first operator, with Airbus hopeful the first will be announced before the end of this year.

Meanwhile the first A330-200F - a Pratt & Whitney PW4000-powered version - is progressing towards its first flight, which is due in "late October or early November", says Lenormand.

Deliveries are due to begin in July 2010. India's Flyington Freighters is officially the first recipient, but Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways is expected to take the first aircraft.

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