A321-200Fs will operate in DHL Express’ global network shortly after 321 Precision Conversions receives an STC for its A321-200 passenger-to-freighter conversion program, expected later this year.
DHL Express and SmartLynx Malta, launch operator of the A321-200PCF, have inked an ACMI agreement to put two A321-200Fs into service for DHL, giving the express integrator both a new freighter platform and a new ACMI operator.
SmartLynx confirmed to Cargo Facts that the aircraft will be the two it is leasing from Vallair (891, ex-Air Mediterranee, and 1017, ex-R Airlines) and that it intends to start flying them as soon as unit 891 is certified and delivered. The aircraft, the first A321-200PCF converted by 321 Precision Conversions, is currently awaiting certification with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), having most recently carried out a series of test flights earlier this month.
Meanwhile, unit 1017 arrived in Guangzhou (CAN) in December 2020, and will be the first A321-200P2F to be converted by Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW) at the ST Aerospace (Guangzhou) Aviation Services facility there. SmartLynx had previously told Cargo Facts it expects that aircraft to enter service in the second or third quarter of 2021.
DHL, which highlights the fuel efficiency and environmental performance of the A321F, could be testing the platform as a potential replacement for its 757-200Fs, of which it has around thirty in Europe operated by its own carriers DHL Air and EAT Leipzig. Some of the oldest are nearing or over thirty years old.
SmartLynx is set to be the third operator of A321 freighters, with plans to add two more A321Fs in 2021 and up to four in 2022. Qantas and Titan Airways have both added EFW-converted A321-200P2Fs. SmartLynx, which could have a fleet of ten A321Fs by 2023, told Cargo Facts that these are very likely to be a mix of A321-200P2Fs and A321-200PCFs.
The carrier has AOCs in Malta, Latvia and Estonia, and is part of the Cyprus-headquartered Avia Solutions Group, parent of U.K.-based Magma Aviation and Iceland-based Bluebird Nordic, among others.
It remains to be seen whether DHL will acquire, convert and operate any A321Fs of its own, as it has with A330-300s. The express integrator took redelivery of its sixth from EFW in December 2020.
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