The first A320 freighter conversion took flight this week, a major milestone in the project as it moves towards entry into service in the first half of 2022. Vaayu Group expects to take delivery of the first plane early next year, part of a five plane deal announced during the Dubai Airshow last month.
The upside of the pandemic was an increase of sales in e-commerce space. For freighters and cargo handlers worldwide, this was unexpected. We saw this coming. We simply fast tracked the process; from ideation to a reality.– Emad AlMonayea, Chairman and President, Vaayu Group
The world’s first A320P2F aircraft by Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW), a joint venture of ST Engineering and Airbus, continues to work through the certification process at its conversion facility in Singapore.
Vaayu is hopeful for a delivery in the March 2022 timeframe. A firm delivery date has not been set.
Speaking at the Dubai Airshow, Vaayu CEO Vijay Arumbakkam expressed optimism on the potential to displace belly cargo service for e-commerce delivery needs in multiple regions across the globe. “For non-critical items which can take their time, belly cargo will still be available,” Arumbakkam explained. “But if it is perishables, if it is e-commerce, if it is time-bound delivery, that’s where we expect the focus to be for this type of fleet.”
“It is very difficult for Amazon to keep up [Prime] delivery contracts depending on belly cargo because you never know if there is going to be a scheduled flight. Integrators are moving to own their aircraft so they can control the supply chain.”
As passenger to freighter (P2F) conversions go, the A320 is something of an unlikely candidate. It is smaller than the A321 and also carries 6 tonnes less cargo. But its increased range over the larger type (200 nautical miles further) helps offset that a bit.
The range further increases if the plane bulks out before hitting the 21t cargo limit. EFW shares that at 17t load the plane’s range increases 30% to 2,560 nautical miles.
The A320P2F offers 10 main deck ULD container cargo positions, plus one pallet. The belly can carry seven containers.
Arumbakkam is confident the type will fit well into regional courier operations. Support for reduced-height LD3-45 containers in the belly of the A320 family allows for easy moving of goods between the P2F and larger cargo operations. It also limits the feedstock available for Elbe Flugzeugwerke to pull from, as the containerized belly configuration is optional on the A320 family.
That most e-commerce shipping maxes out on volume before it reaches the weight limits suggests the larger A321s would hold a further advantage, but Arumbakkam remains confident that the A320 P2F will find a successful customer base.
Vaayu expects the planes will be pressed into service in markets across Asia. It has not, however, named the first customer to operate the type. Arumbakkum suggests the company “has a few [Letters of Intent] in place, but we want to take our time in selecting the launch operator. Because it is a new product we want to make sure it goes to the most important partner.”
He also notes likely initial customer markets in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. But his vision remains much broader than that. “With the next set of aircraft we can expand globally.”
More news from the 2021 Dubai Air Show
- Iraqi Airways chooses Panasonic Avionics for IFE/C future
- Saudia selects Inmarsat GX for A321neo connectivity
- Airbus snags another massive A321neo/A321XLR deal from Indigo Partners
- Panasonic Avionics picked for Saudia IFE play
- Airbus scores a LiFi win for a trio of corporate jets
- Scratch another IFC player from the commercial market
- Emirates (re)commits big to Premium Economy
- Vaayu secures A320 P2F deal, expects early 2022 EIS
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