While Boeing aircraft dominate the global narrowbody freighter market, much discussion at Cargo Facts Symposium 2018 revolved around possibilities for A321 P2F conversions. During a panel discussion on narrowbody conversions, speakers addressed the challenges – as well as potential benefits – of either switching from Boeing to Airbus freighters, or adding Airbus freighters to a fleet currently made up of Boeing aircraft.
When asked by the audience how hard switching platforms might be for an operator, Robert Convey, Senior Vice President Sales and Marketing, Aeronautical Engineers, Inc. (AEI), noted facetiously, “It’s very hard to make the switch – I would say impossible,” but added that there are some upsides to Airbus operations.
“To be fair there are a lot of Airbus planes out there,” he said. “There’ll be pilots available for it, that’s not going to be a problem.” However, in his view, one of the big challenges with Airbus aircraft is “where it sits.” Earlier in the discussion, Peter Koster, Business Development Director, Vallair, said he sees the A321 as an attractive aircraft for remote operations across Africa, in places like Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.
Convey disagreed, citing a lack of infrastructure in remote locations. When the A321F flies to Nigeria, “it flies to the passenger terminal. It doesn’t fly to the cargo side,” he said. Many airports do still lack the necessary infrastructure for cargo service of the A321F, but Koster believes that is a problem that will not be a permanent impediment to operating Airbus freighters in those regions.
“I see no reason why the A321 won’t successfully be operated there, although it’s not the prime destination for the first couple of aircraft,” which are likely to fly in more established networks to start, Koster said. Longer term, he sees the A321F as a boon to operations in those areas, thanks to the possibility of shipping temperature-controlled freight on the containerized lower deck.
In the video that follows, Convey and Koster debate the feasibility of switching between Boeing and Airbus freighter platforms, with Koster concluding that it is more possible than it may seem.