Brazilian carrier Azul has become the first airline to operate reconfigured Embraer E-Jet passenger freighters with main decks that have been modified into Class F cargo compartments.
Azul told Cargo Facts that Brazil-based LHColus Tecnologica, the engineering consultant it has partnered with, has now received a supplemental type certificate (STC) from Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency, paving the way for the carrier to begin flying a pair of E195s (19000361 and 19000638) in their new configuration on Feb. 7.
The two aircraft, built in 2010 and 2013, respectively, underwent the modification in Campinas (VCP), where they had been since late 2021, and have already flown to cities like Porto Alegre (POA) and Manaus (MAO).
Azul, which has around fifty E195s, told Cargo Facts it intends to start flying at least two more that have been modified in this way.
A factory-built E195 with General Electric CF34 engines has a maximum take-off weight of 115,280 lbs and a maximum range of 2,300 nm, according to Embraer.
While units 19000361 and 19000638 have had their seats removed and additional modifications to the cabin to make them Class F compartments, they do not have a cargo door.
A Class F compartment must be on the main deck of an aircraft and have the means to detect and control or extinguish a fire without requiring a person to enter the compartment, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). This can be achieved with a built-in fire extinguishing or suppression system, for example.
The Class F E195s, which have a payload of around 15 tonnes each, are now equipped with a thermal camera fire-detection system and are certified to carry heat and fire-resistant containers in the cabin, according to a statement.
Azul told Cargo Facts that it is using the E195s to transport only general cargo and e-commerce for now but will have approval to carry dangerous goods in a few weeks.
In response to the surge in demand for cargo capacity during the pandemic, Azul had already removed the seats from around four of its passenger E195s — enabling each to offer around 53 cubic meters of volume and a payload of around 11 tonnes — and a number of its ATRs to carry cargo in the cabin. These aircraft lacked the fire control enhancements now featured by units 19000361 and 19000638.
Since 2018, Azul has operated two 737-400Fs that are the Brazilian airline’s only Boeing aircraft. Azul told Cargo Facts in May 2021 that it intended to harmonize and upgrade its freighter fleet with two A321Fs, saying at the time that it expected to lease these aircraft in the first half of 2022.
Apart from Azul, other carriers are exploring passenger-freighter modifications that are not temporary exemptions subject to constraints that the authorities have imposed on these more common reconfigurations.
AELF FlightService and TAP Air Portugal are working with Avensis Aviation to turn the main decks of A330-200s into Class E cargo compartments, while Eastern Airlines is similarly developing its own STC to modify the main decks of 777s into Class E cargo compartments.
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