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The developers of the first Airbus A320/A321 passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversion program expect to start conducting critical design review within “the next few weeks,” ahead of planned certification of the A320 version by June 2017. The Pacavi Group, headquartered in San Diego, California, and Bremen, Germany, launched the supplemental type certificate (STC) development in January 2015, some six months before Airbus and ST Aerospace formed a partnership to conduct their own P2F program for the types. Pacavi’s program calls for co-production of what it calls the A320 Freighter Lite at MRO specialist Haitec in Frankfurt/Hahn, Germany and at the facilities of program partner Gameco in Guangzhou, China. Conversion of the first example, now under way at Haitec, “is progressing on schedule,” according to Pacavi.
“After we performed the preliminary design review in December, we now have successfully completed the first pre-modification tests,” explained Jens Strahmann, Pacavi’s vice president for product certification, quality assurance, tests and evaluation and former head of test at Airbus Engineering in Bremen, Germany. “As we move on with these tests, a critical design review will take place in just a few weeks from now.”
Pacavi expects the conversion for the larger A321 to gain its certification by the end of 2017.
Design specifications call for the Pacavi A320 Freighter Lite to carry up to 21 metric tons of cargo some 2,300 nm at its structural limit. Depending on load weight, the airplane’s range will extend almost as far as 3,200 nautical miles.
The conversion program includes a new 140-inch main deck cargo door, a Class E cargo interior, a 9G barrier and a manual cargo loading system. A typical configuration would accommodate up to ten 88-inch by 125-inch by 82-inch unit load devices (ULDs) or pallets, and one smaller container or 88-inch by 61.5-inch pallet, resulting in a main deck container volume of about 3,860 cubic feet.
The A320 Freighter Lite can also accommodate containerized freight in its belly holds, adding a lower deck cargo volume of 1,322 cubic feet. Pacavi calls the capability unique among competing narrowbody freighters.
The most direct competition will take the form of the A320/A321P2F under development by Airbus and ST Aerospace under a partnership entered during last June’s Paris Airshow in which the Singapore-based MRO specialist agreed to increase its 35-percent stake in Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmbH (EFW) to 55 percent, making Airbus the minority shareholder in that aerostructures and P2F joint venture.
That deal marked Airbus’s second attempt at a narrowbody freighter conversion program. An earlier effort to collaborate with Russia’s United Aircraft Corp and Irkut in 2008 collapsed after Airbus deemed it ill-timed and too expensive.
By its own admission, Airbus took a somewhat less ambitious and more pragmatic approach with this effort, centered on only “critical” aspects of performance. Specifications call for the EFW A320P2F, with 11 main-deck container positions, to carry 21 metric tons of payload over 2,100 nm, while the A321P2F, with 14 main-deck positions, will haul up to 27 metric tons over 1,900 nm. The partners plan to deliver the first airplane in 2018. The deal calls for ST Aero to assume the lead role as it does now on the Airbus A330P2F.