The A320 freighters are coming!

PacAvi Group inducted its first Airbus A320 aircraft for conversion to freighter configuration at the HAITEC facility at Frankfurt Hahn Airport (HHN).

German-American aviation company PacAvi launched its A320 Family P-to-F conversion program in September last year, and provided a more detailed look at the program a few weeks later at the Cargo Facts Aircraft Symposium in Miami. But while the company provided plenty of detail about its intentions, the question on most observers’ minds was “When will intentions turn into actions?”

The answer came today, with the announcement that German MRO HAITEC had begun conversion of PacAvi’s first A320. The aircraft, msn 293, was originally delivered to Air Malta in 1992, and most recently operated by Hermes Airlines, but is now carrying US registration N320AB.

Another big question, about any new P-to-F program, is “who will order this conversion?” Cargo Facts believes at least one customer has placed a firm order, and senior executives from PacAvi have confirmed that the company “will begin to announce customers shortly.”

Of course, PacAvi isn’t the only player in the A320 conversion game.  In 2007 Airbus itself launched an A320/A321 passenger-to-freighter conversion program in partnership with Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW, the MRO and conversion arm of Airbus parent EADS) and Russian companies IRKUT, and its parent, United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). The program got a big boost in 2008, when AerCap became the launch customer, with a 30-unit order. But three years later, in June 2011, Airbus and its partners announced a decision to “stop and freeze” the program and dissolve the partnership.

With PacAvi’s first aircraft now in conversion, and a launch customer announcement just around the corner, Cargo Facts expects a response from Airbus/EFW. Whether this will take the form of some kind of cooperation, or the launch of a competing program, or both, remains to be seen – stay tuned on this one.

The basic PacAvi A320 P-to-F conversion includes the following:

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