BAE Systems is to launch a freighter conversion for the ATP twin turboprop later this month, in partnership with Scandinavian regional operator West Air Sweden, which may take up to nine ex-United Feeder Service aircraft.

Conversion will introduce a sliding cargo door similar to that offered for the BAe 748, from which the ATP was developed in the 1980s.

A cargo ATP should accommodate around 8.5t of cargo, compared with between 6t and 6.3t for the 748, according to West Air production manager Colin Kearney. He says BAE would design the door for West Air to fabricate and convert the aircraft - although a third party could be used for the work. BAE Systems' Asset Management arm owns 42 of the 62 ATPs built.

West Air hopes to begin an initial conversion early next year under a schedule that could see a certificated ATP freighter entering service about 12 months later.

The airline has recently taken delivery of the first three United Feeder Service aircraft in a deal brokered by BAE's Asset Management arm.

Two of the three aircraft are being used to transport mail - a task which does not require a cargo door - and the other is configured for passenger service.

West Air, which operates 11 of the earlier 748s, has put deposits on a further three United ATPs, and is in talks on three more aircraft owned by a leasing company.

The manufacturer initially proposed a basic 748-type door modified to European JAR25 standards, but West Air has suggested a simpler design, placed two frames further forward within the parallel section of the fuselage.

This permits use of the full diameter for loading and maintains centre of gravity stability for loading cargo into the longer aircraft, avoiding the need for a tail prop.

There will also be greater external clearance around the tailplane for loading.

BAe will also offer enhanced operating weights for the ATP, essentially matching those of the later Jetstream 61 variant.

Source: Flight International