SEVERAL UK-based cargo airlines are confirming plans to begin operating Airbus A300 freighters, as DHL works towards the introduction of the widebody on its intra-European network.

Heavylift Cargo Airlines is understood to have concluded a deal with C-S Aviation Services for two British Aerospace Aviation Services (BAeAS)-converted A300B4 freighters, for delivery within the next two months. The carrier's first aircraft is expected to be displayed at the Paris air show.

C-S holds 13 commitments for the BAeAS A300 conversion, which was expected to receive the US Federal Aviation Administration supplemental type certificate as Flight International closed for press.

Heavylift, along with Hunting Cargo, Channel Express and Air Atlantique, is in discussion with DHL over its plans to introduce A300 freighters on its European network (Flight International, 7-13 May). The express-parcels specialist, which is already acquiring seven A300s for its US network, expects to finalise the acquisition by the end of this month, to enable "-the first two or three aircraft to be delivered before the end of 1997".

An initial batch of five A300B4Fs is being sought for delivery in 1997-8, followed by a second five "-depending whether the current strong growth rate continues", says the company. DHL is believed ultimately to have a requirement for at least 20 A300s in Europe.

Having originally sought tenders from the airlines to provide the Airbuses under an aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance contract, DHL is now seriously considering placing its own bulk contract for the A300s, and then contracting one or two companies to operate them. C-S is believed to be the front-runner to supply the aircraft.

Meanwhile, Bournemouth-based Channel Express, which will begin operating its first, BAeAS-converted, A300B4F later this month, says that it will introduce two more A300s, one in November 1997 and the other in either April or November 1998. The airline puts the acquisition of these two additional aircraft at $32 million.

The first extra aircraft, a B4-200, will be converted by Daimler-Benz Aerospace Airbus at Dresden, says the airline, "-as BAeAS did not have a slot available to meet our timetable," adding that its three options with BAeAS still stand, and that a supplier for the third conversion has not been finalised.

Source: Flight International