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Field Aviation starts work on first Saab 340 freighter

PAUL LEWIS / WASHINGTON DC

Manufacturer's leasing arm targets US operators for cargo-converted turboprop

Saab Aircraft Leasing has contracted Field Aviation of Canada to begin modifying the first freighter version of the Saab 340A turboprop. The firm hopes to have a service bulletin (SB) ready by June in time for a planned North American demonstration tour.

This week the company plans to send a Saab-owned 340A to the Calgary-based modification centre for work to begin. Changes will include replacing the cabin side-walls with new cargo liner panels, adding centre aisle floor rollers, installing 9g retaining nets subdividing the Class E cargo cabin into five separate areas, and adding a smoke barrier between the crew area and cargo cabin.

Saab has opted to develop an SB rather than pursue a more expensive supplemental type certificate, and as a result, has foregone installing a new side fuselage cargo door. The 340 freighter will instead be modified within the current 340A type certification and retain the aircraft's existing 1.32m x 1.35m (52in x 53in) aft door.

The 340A cargo aircraft will offer a maximum volume of 118m3 (1,270ft3) and be able to carry a maximum payload of 3,860kg (8,500lbs) over a 342km (185nm) range. The cabin is divided into three sections (see diagram).

Saab is initially targeting the SB at the 340A, the market value of which it feels has dropped sufficiently to make a freighter financially viable, rather than the higher value 340B version. The modification, however, is equally applicable to the 340B. There are currently 152 340As in service.

The company is targeting several potential users on its demonstration tour, including DHL and FedEx Express. Mesaba has also expressed interest in converting a number of its large fleet of turboprops into freighters.

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