Julian Moxon/Paris Andrzej Jeziorski/Munich

Daimler-Benz Aerospace Airbus (DAAirbus) and French maintenance group Sogerma have signed a long-term agreement for the conversion of Airbus A300B4s from passenger to freighter configuration. The move follows an 18-aircraft order from a new US leasing company.

The initial Franco/German deal covers a minimum of ten aircraft, but Sogerma says that the arrangement will continue "-as long as there are customers". Under the terms, the French company has what it describes as "exclusive rights" to carry out conversions for DAAirbus, "-but only if we can meet their requirements".

Sogerma, which points to a global need for up to 600 freighter conversions in the mid-size category over the next 20 years, says that it "-will decide within two months" whether to start a second production line. If it goes ahead, the line would be opened by early 1998, doubling capacity from six aircraft a year, and raising the total annual capacity for conversions at DAAirbus and Sogerma to 24.

The deal covers associated maintenance checks. Work has already begun on the first aircraft for completion in February 1998.

The first conversion now under way at Sogerma is one of two ordered from DA Airbus by the unnamed leasing subsidiary of a US financial company. The ex-Continental Airlines aircraft will enter service with courier company DHL in 1998.

DAAirbus is also believed to have been awarded another contract from Aviation Sales in Miami for four conversions, which will also be subcontracted to Sogerma.

Eighteen more aircraft are to be converted in a contract from Pinnacle Air Cargo Enterprises - a US company formed by Aerolease International, Air Traffic, and Pinnacle Aircraft Leasing.

Pinnacle Aircraft Leasing already has a contract with DA Airbus for two conversions.

Source: Flight International