California-based C Cubed Aerospace acquired an A320 airframe and inducted the aircraft for conversion to freighter configuration at FMS in Kansas City (MCI), C Cubed confirmed to Cargo Facts.
According to company estimates, touch labor is expected to wrap-up next summer, with flight tests commencing shortly after. The company would not identify an MSN, but Cargo Facts believes it is 1523, ex-Sky Airline, which arrived at MCI on 23 August, according to FlightAware. C Cubed says its engineering partner, Structural Integrity Engineering (SIE) has already completed the bulk of the program’s modification design, and that initial parts and tools have already been manufactured. Absent any delays, C Cubed Aerospace expects an FAA STC for its A320 conversion program as early as 3Q or 4Q of 2020.
While C Cubed aims to be the first company with an A320 STC, it is certainly not the first outfit to explore a conversion program for the airframe, which as history indicates, is not easy to modify. Two companies, including a partnership that included Airbus and EFW have previously acquired A320 airframes but did not follow through to convert them.
- In 2007 Airbus launched an A320/A321 passenger-to-freighter conversion program in partnership with EFW 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. The original conformity aircraft (211) remains in passenger service.
- In 2014, the now defunct PacAvi launched an A320P2F program and had planned to convert unit 293. That aircraft remains in storage at Frankfurt Hahn (HHN).
EFW has since revived its attempt at an A320P2F program, and expects to induct a conformity aircraft for conversion before year-end. While its previous attempt at launching a program encountered complications from the positioning of the angle-of-attack (AOA) sensor on the A320, Airbus has since developed a workaround solution that involves repositioning the sensor.
C Cubed, which has not previously developed an STC for a freighter-conversion, says it recognizes the difficulties associated with modifying an A320, and claims to have developed a solution for the AOA sensor. Its design boasts 11 pallet positions, as well as a twelfth position for a an LD-3 container on the maindeck, and up to seven LD-3s on the lower deck.
Looking ahead, C Cubed says it has also made progress on its A321 program, which has a high-degree of commonality with its A320 program, according to the company.