US engineering company Flight Structures (FSI) is in detailed discussions with China Southern Airlines about launching its proposed passenger-to-freighter (PTF) conversion programme for the Airbus A300-600.
Guangzhou Aircraft Maintenance Engineering (GAMECO) is seen as the front runner to carry out the conversions.
Seattle-based FSI, a B/E Aerospace subsidiary, originally developed the A300B4 PTF conversion in conjunction with BAE Systems, and acquired the programme from the UK company in 2002. While it acknowledges it has long-running plans to go head-to-head with EADS-EFW in the A300-600 PTF market, it declines to comment on any current discussions to launch the programme.
However, GAMECO confirms that China Southern held talks last month with FSI in Seattle to discuss the potential conversion of six Airbus A300-600s. It says that it did not participate because it is up to the airline to select a conversion company, and GAMECO does not develop supplemental type certificates.
GAMECO says the talks are in the “very detailed feasibility” stages and may result in China Southern becoming the launch customer for FSI’s programme. GAMECO, which is partly owned by China Southern, hopes to be selected as the conversion centre by FSI after a launch customer commits.
China Southern inherited six A300-600Rs through its acquisition of China Northern Airlines. China Southern company secretary Su Liang says it is possible that China Southern could operate any converted A300s, or that they could be sold to a third party.
MAX KINGSLEY-JONES/LONDON BRENDAN SOBIE/SINGAPORE NICHOLAS IONIDES/SINGAPORE