Since Airbus handed over the last A300-600F in 2007 its freighter strategy has been far more miss than hit.
It scrubbed its high-profile A380F programme in the same year, effectively handing a lifeline to Boeing’s 747 – a strategic decision which chief salesman John Leahy, at this year’s Paris air show, admitted he “always regretted”.
Airbus turned to the A330 as a new-build freighter platform but, with sales of barely 40 aircraft in eight years, and a shift in the cargo market away from dedicated freighters, the type has not replicated the runaway success of its passenger sister. The subsequent failed venture with Russia to develop an A320 conversion programme appeared to cap off Airbus’s miserable run in the cargo game.
But down isn’t quite out, and Airbus is regrouping under a different battle flag by handing leadership to ST Aerospace.
That the strategy includes surrendering majority ownership of EFW underlines the significance of the change of tack – one which will give Airbus the chance to offer a family of freighters, from the A320 to the A330-300, with fewer burdens on its resources.
If Airbus’s freighter efforts have been off-target, the ST partnership might just provide the steady hand necessary to improve its aim.
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Source: Flight International