TNT is finalising a major Airbus A300B4 conversion contract with British Aerospace Aviation Services (BAeAS), following the signing of a lease deal with C-S Aviation Services (CSAS) for four A300B4 freighters.

The deal with CSAS, and another with Airbus Industrie's Asset Management division for three A300B4s, comes as part of the European express packages operator's plans to have 14 of the widebody twinjets in service by 2002.

Deliveries of the three CSAS aircraft will begin in September 1999, following conversion of the ex-Continental Airlines aircraft by BAeAS at Filton in the UK. The four A300s will be delivered on 12-year financial leases.

According to Tom Story, TNT's director for airline development, negotiations are under way with BAe for at least 10 more conversions to cover the three ex-Pan Am aircraft being purchased from Airbus, and other acquisitions which are now being planned. This is despite TNT's earlier commitment for conversions with BAe's rival in the market, Daimler-Benz Aerospace Airbus.

Story says that TNT began A300 freighter operations earlier this month with an aircraft chartered from Channel Express, which is being used to serve the hub in Liege, Belgium, from the UK. "We are looking to add a second A300 on charter next March."

TNT's fleet of Boeing 727s (which the A300s are replacing) and BAe 146s are operated by European carriers such as Sterling European Airlines and Air Foyle. Story says no decision has been made on the operation of the A300s, adding that TNT is considering setting up its own flight operation for the widebodies at Liege.

The company is studying mid-sized freighters such as the Boeing 737-300, 757-200 and Tupolev Tu-204-120C to fill the capacity gap between the 146s and A300s.

CSAS is a major lease management provider of A300B4 passenger and freighter aircraft, with some 28 examples in its fleet. The company has orders with BAeAS for up to 41 conversion slots, and recently delivered the first of seven A300Fs to Costa Rican cargo carrier JHM Cargo Express.

Source: Flight International