Manufacturer and Moscow prepare paperwork and look for suitable conversion site

Airbus is expected to decide in the next few months whether to set up a freighter conversion centre in partnership with Russia’s newly formed United Aircraft (UAC).

The manufacturer is working on a plan to convert ageing A320s being retired from passenger service to freighters.

“We have conceived this project specifically with Russia in mind, given an excess capacity at its aviation enterprises,” says Airbus’s business development director in Moscow, Sergei Yermolayev, who expects the European manufacturer to make a decision in principle within the next few months.

A task force, which includes Russian government and industry representatives, has set about identifying a production facility and providing documentation for the project. Airbus senior vice-president industrial strategy Axel Krein indicates it could develop into a full risk-sharing partnership on future Airbus aircraft programmes. “I don’t rule out a joint venture on a parity basis,” he says. “Potentially, Russia’s revenue could amount to $2 billion over the course of the project.”

Until now, Dresden-based EADS-EFW has carried out the bulk of Airbus’s freighter conversions using its certificated modification for the A300 and A310.

EADS-EFW has long been thinking about a conversion programme for the narrowbody Airbus models, but has been awaiting the required market conditions and the signal from Airbus to go ahead.

Following a recent presidential decree, the Russian aerospace industry is facing consolidation under the UAC umbrella.

Krein believes UAC will be a natural partner to benefit from teaming with Airbus and says: “We want to co-operate not only in the freighter conversion project, but across a wide range of areas, with estimated earnings of $25 billion.”

Airbus has recently placed an additional work package, worth $200 million, for a string of its aircraft models with NPO Irkut, Scientific Production and the Voronezh Aircraft Production Association.

On the procurement side, Russian titanium producer VSMPO will increase shipments of titanium semi-finished products, and Sual-Holding will begin supplying aluminium plates to Airbus.


Source: Flight International