OREANDA-NEWS. October 21, 2008. The fuselage of A320 passenger airliner (manufacturer serial number 004) was airlifted from Toulouse to the EADS Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmbH conversion center in Dresden. This fuselage is intended for the joint venture Airbus Freighter Conversion GmbH (AFC) as a platform to test some process technologies as well as to finalize engineering solutions. The fuselage weighing 25 tons was transported by А300-600ST “Beluga”.

Airbus Freighter Conversion GmbH (AFC) is a joint venture of United Aircraft Corporation, Irkut Corporation, Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmbH (EFW) and Airbus S.A.S. (both EADS). It was established in April 2007 in Germany (Dresden). Russian share in the Joint Venture equals 50% and is divided between UAC (25%) and Irkut (25%). The other 50% are divided between EADS EFW (32%) and Airbus (18%).

AFC is responsible for the conversion of Airbus A320/A321 family aircraft into freighters. The design works began in December 2007 at plateaus in Toulouse, Hamburg, Bremen, and Dresden. Currently almost 50 Russian engineers together with Airbus and EFW specialists are actively working at the joint engineering plateau in Dresden. EFW annual output is up to 20 A300/A310 conversions and it is about to pioneer A320 P2F.

During the conversion procedure the passenger cabin is dismantled and a new reinforced floor and up/download equipment are installed. In order to simplify loading, a bigger cargo hatch is cut in the aircraft fuselage. All the conversion Kits will be delivered by the Irkut Corporation subsidiary, Irkutsk Aviation plant, which also produces a number of components for A320 passenger airliner. The re-equipment of IAP production facilities was carried out jointly by Irkut and Airbus specialists. All major industrial processes including galvanizing, mechanoprocessing, heat treatment, and painting have been certified as per Airbus standards.

Within the framework of the P2F project, Irkut Corporation is responsible for the production, procurement, delivery and logistics regarding all kits necessary for the conversion. At the moment preparations for the construction of the conversion line in Zhukovskiy are under way in Moscow. The facilities in Zhukovskiy will be based on the proven EFW conversion line model with the possibility to use it as aircraft service centre in future.

The prototype conversion will be ready in 2011; start of serial production is expected in early 2012. By 2016 annual production is to reach nearly 40 aircraft at two assembly lines. The A320/A321 Passenger To Freighter (P2F) converted aircraft is the only modern solution in the small freighter market segment and therefore the best feeder freighter aircraft for the growing express market worldwide. Payload varies from 21 to 28 metric tons and the aircraft’s range will be up to 2,100nm/3,700 km.

According to preliminary estimates the joint venture’s annual turnover is anticipated to reach USUSD 200 million with the expected market demand of 400 aircraft by 2026.

On 16th July 2008 at Farnborough International air show Airbus Freighter Conversion GmbH (AFC) signed a firm contract with Netherlands-based leasing company AerCap to convert 30 of passenger A320/A321s into freighter aircraft.