Max Kingsley-Jones/LONDON

TNT Airways has expanded its search for a medium capacity freighter to include the Airbus A310, thereby delaying the final decision until at least the end of the year.

The Liege, Belgium-based airline arm of express package carrier TNT has been studying various 20-30t payload freighters to replace its Boeing 727s and fit between its fleet of BAe 146QTs and Airbus A300B4 Freighters (Flight International, 13-19 June). The airline had been evaluating the acquisition of types including secondhand Boeing 737s or 757s, and the Tupolev Tu-204. It originally planned to decide on an aircraft by October.

TNT had been close to finalising the acquisition of 25t payload 757-200 Special Freighters converted through Boeing Airplane Services, but is now seriously considering the A310-200 widebody, which would have a capacity of around 40t. The carrier has a requirement for six to seven aircraft, with deliveries beginning within two years.

"Airbus is back in the race with an attractive bid for the conversion of secondhand A310s," says TNT Airways managing director Niky Terzakis. He adds that the A310 bid provides "better long term value" than the 757, and its greater payload will provide more scope for TNT's growth.

It is understood that TNT will have to source the aircraft from the secondhand market, for conversion by EADS EFW (formerly DaimlerChrysler Airbus) at its Dresden plant.

Terzakis says that the acquisition of the Tu-204C from Sirocco is still being studied, but he has concerns about the company's ability to provide full in-service support for the Russian built twinjet.

Meanwhile, EADS EFW is due to sign its first deal for the freighter conversion of A300-600s. The deal, with a single undisclosed customer, is for three aircraft, with deliveries beginning in November 2001.

Source: Flight International