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Exclusive interview with Intrepid Aviation, the US lessor that emerged from obscurity to launch the Airbus A330-200F

A US lessor that resurfaced yesterday to sign a letter of intent (LoI) for 20 Airbus A330-200 freighters after spending a couple of years in relative obscurity is actively looking to acquire used A330s, A340s and Boeing 767-300ERs with plans to eventually convert the aircraft to freighters.

Intrepid Aviation Group, which recently underwent a financial restructuring, wants to build up a portfolio of a minimum 25 mid-sized widebodies before deliveries of its new A330 freighters begin in 2010, chief executive Ronald Anderson told Flight during an interview yesterday.

The company is seeking to buy “passenger airplanes subject to lease”, he says, noting that Intrepid Aviation wants airliners that “we view as good candidates to convert to freighters in the future…primarily A330s, A340s and 767-300ERs” and these “will go into conversion around 2014 and beyond”.

He adds: “At the current time there are a couple of choices with respect to 767 [conversion packages] but nothing yet with respect to A330s. But certainly, Airbus with its EADS EFW [conversion] facility in Dresden, Germany is top of our list [once a conversion programme is created].”

These mid-sized widebody types represent Intrepid Aviation’s third generation of aircraft. Anderson and his partners started off in the Boeing 727 leasing business about 14 years ago, and later built up a portfolio of Airbus A300-600s and A310s under the moniker Intrepid Aviation Partners.

A few years ago, the firm “recognised that the availability of good passenger airplanes was becoming problematic and decided to turn to a newer generation aircraft that would be fuel efficient but also comply with” future navigation rules and emissions standards. It sold the last of its A300-600 and A310 aircraft in 2004 and began maintaining a lower profile, says the Intrepid Aviation chief executive.

“The reasons you haven’t heard anything from us in a couple of years is we have been cleaning up our portfolio and repositioning the company with new partnerships composed of myself, Bill Boisture [former Gulfstream president and chief operating officer] and Michael Goldberg”, all minority shareholders of Intrepid Aviation.

In August 2006, Intrepid Aviation welcomed New York-based Reservoir Capital as its majority shareholder.

Anderson says the company is in discussions “with a couple of airlines and a couple of financial institutions about their portfolios and hope to have something to say on that in the first quarter this year”.

But the company is also keen to enter the new freighter market. Yesterday, Airbus made the surprise announcement that Intrepid Aviation has signed a LoI for 20 A330-200 freighters, in the European manufacturer’s first publicly revealed commitment for the aircraft.

Yesterday, Indian cargo operator Flyington Freighters announced a firm order for six A330-200 freighters.

The A330-200 freighter “is such a versatile machine” and will function well for the freight integrator market, which includes FedEx and UPS, as well as for general cargo market applications. It is also “very much a successor aircraft to the [McDonnell Douglas] DC-10 and DC-8s”, says Anderson.

He says the company does not have an agreement in place with an operator for the A330-200 freighters, but is actively working on it. The LoI will be firmed up “sometime in the next couple of months”.

The Intrepid Aviation chief executive also admits “great interest” in a future freighter version of the Airbus A350 XWB.

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