Why Airlines are Converting Passenger Jets to Freighters?

The growth of air cargo, especially for e-commerce, implies a need for more than 1,500 aircrafts to be converted from Passenger to Freighter(P2F).

CREDITS : newsroom.kuehne-nagel.com

P2F conversion is an engineering challenge that requires a number of complex tasks to be achieved, namely :

  • Structural modifications of the aircraft.
  • Installation of the main deck cargo door.
  • Removal of all passenger amenities.
  • Installation of floor grid and freighter floor panels for increased weights.
  • A massive amount of structural items used during the conversion requires precise and reliable material management.

COVID-19 and how has it impacted air travel and cargo?

While air travel remains signifcantly lower due to COVID-19, some former passenger aircrafts are avoiding early retirement by finding a second life which is moving cargo. Logistics giants, meanwhile, are using the airline industry’s downturn to grow their fleets by acquiring aging passenger aircrafts for a fraction of what they’d sell for new.

This has created a huge opportunity for Passenger-to-Freighter (P2F) conversion companies, including Singapore Technologies (ST) Engineering Ltd, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and US-based Aeronautical Engineers Inc.

How is it done?

  • The customer/operator first sends the aircraft details, including the serial number and information about the onboard systems to the firm, where a new design is crafted.
CREDITS : romansaviation.com
  • Upon arrival, the entire aircraft is stripped so that the engineers can start off from ground zero.
CREDITS : aviationbusinessnews.com
  • Passenger seats for instance, are not required and they are completely taken out.
CREDITS : businesstimes.com
  • The cabin floor is then removed and replaced with a reinforced structure that allows the aircraft to handle the weight of the cargo pallets, and allows for easier loading as rollers help guide and move the pallets.
CREDITS : safetyfirst.airbus.com
  • CARGO DOOR- A section of the fuselage is cut out and a ”plug” is inserted which is installed in its place- all the while making sure the aircraft doesn’t twist while modifications are done.Finally, the cargo door is attached.
  • A rigid barrier is installed to protect the cockpit from the cargo at the back.
  • Windows are also removed as these aren’t required.
  • Engineers then move on to working on the aircraft systems.
  • Post successful modifications,the aircraft is washed and cleaned and all the paperworks is done.
CREDITS : aerotime.aero
  • The newly configured aircraft is now taken to air to test all its parameters and airworthiness before being delivered to the customer.

Statistics so far

Israel Aerospace Industries has completed over 700 of these conversions on a wide range of aircrafts from business jets to passenger jets- most of those being used by Amazon.com Inc .

US-based Aeronautical Engineers Inc. is also seeing a dramatic increase in demand for conversions citing a 30-40 per cent fall in the value of planes.

Bottomline

Freighters kept the world moving even when the economy was down owing to the pandemic and will continue to be in demand as the freight that needs to be ferried across the globe increases, regardless of the economical situation.


REFERENCE(s)

  • businessinsider.in
  • deccanherald.com
  • newsroom.kuehne-nagel.com
  • COVER : aircargopedia.com