ATSG steps up to hire converted A321 freighters
The leasing arm of Air Transport Services Group, a provider of aviation services and air cargo transportation, announced on Tuesday that it has committed to purchasing two Airbus A321s and converting them into freighters to meet growing demand from express delivery companies.
PEMCO, based in Tampa, Florida, another ATSG subsidiary specializing in passenger-to-cargo conversions, will perform the renovations. The overhaul of the first aircraft will begin in the fourth quarter, and Cargo Aircraft Management will lease the aircraft to an unidentified customer in the second quarter of 2022. The second A321-200 will go into the engineering shop around the same time, with a new one. expected delivery in the fourth quarter, according to the parent company.
The A321 is a new entrant in the converted cargo market. The first aircraft was converted last year by an Airbus subsidiary for Qantas Freight and only a handful are in service to date. The narrow-body aircraft collides with the Boeing 737-800 in the regional freight and express delivery market and is also seen as a strong candidate to replace the older Boeing 757 freighter as they retire in the years. to come up.
“We have accelerated our plans to invest and offer this type of mid-size and mid-range cargo ship because our express customers have expressed a strong interest in adding it to their fleets,” said Mike. Berger, commercial director of ATSG, in a statement. “It is very well suited for air-express service and e-commerce execution on shorter routes and with smaller payloads to complement our existing fleet of over 85 converted large Boeing 767s, and with better performance than the Boeing 757 or any other freighter. Variants of Boeing 737 freighter. Now is the time to launch this landmark initiative for ATSG and its aircraft leasing customers. “
CFO Quint Turner declined to identify specific customers for the plane, but said several parties had expressed interest in both planes.
PEMCO’s conversion work is based on a design by 321 Precision Conversions, a US joint venture between Portland, Oregon-based Precision Aircraft Solutions and ATSG. In late April, the Federal Aviation Administration approved the company’s plan to modify the A321. 321 Precision Conversions has authorized PEMCO to install its conversion kits.
ATSG (NASDAQ: ATSG) will earn money from 321 Precision Conversions by selling the conversion kits and royalties for the additional type certificate required for each aircraft, as well as PEMCO’s engineering work.
Converting used passenger planes to freighters is a complex engineering task that involves disassembling the cabin interior, covering the windows, cutting the frame and adding a large cargo door, reinforcing the floor for heavy containers and install a rigid barrier in front of the cockpit and a cargo handling system.
Earlier this year, 321 PC delivered its first converted freighter to Vallair, an aviation services company in Luxembourg. The plane is now in service for SmartLynx Malta, a new freight airline owned by a Latvian passenger carrier that has started carrying packages for DHL Express in Europe. The manufacturing work for this aircraft was carried out by Avocet, also based in Florida.
The company’s second conversion is underway at PEMCO and the third aircraft will be inducted into the Avocet facility in the second half of July, said Zachary Young, sales manager for 321 Precision. Customers, or end users, have not yet been publicly identified.
Allocation of conversion work to different maintenance, repair and overhaul partners is based on schedule, expected delivery, geographic location and other customer preferences, Young said.
Vallair, which arranged the delivery to Qantas, recently announced that its third A321 freighter is due for delivery in the third quarter.
Aviation experts say the converted A321 freighter has excellent characteristics for the short and medium-haul market. Express carriers are rapidly expanding their fleets as the volume of e-commerce shipments skyrockets. Narrow-body planes are ideal for shuttle routes, as planes can be easily filled without wasting space and require less fuel than larger planes.
The A321 is around 25% more fuel efficient than older freighters in its size class, with better range, better payload and better bulk capacity. Its ability to carry containers in the lower cargo hold gives it an advantage over the 737-800, which is limited to bulk cargoes. Analysts say the main reason sales could be delayed is that carriers that operate Boeing fleets want to keep the same aircraft.
The 321 Precision Conversions and Airbus versions differ slightly in terms of weight and other characteristics.
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