Sweden-based Taby Air Maintenance (TAM) has lifted the redelivery forecast for its Saab 340 passenger-to-freighter conversion program to six to eight units, up from 2020 projections of four to six redeliveries.
The forecasted bump is significant for the program, which has converted a total of eighteen Saab 340s to freighter configuration since its launch in 2006.
Demand for the program has ebbed and flowed over the years, Par Gulle, managing director of TAM, told Cargo Facts. After redelivering a few freighters to Europe-based carriers under an EASA Supplemental Type Certificate, “it became quieter for a couple of years between 2011-2012,” said Gulle. “We also realized that we needed to have the program FAA approved,” he said. The FAA issued an STC in 2016, but only recently has operator interest begun to pick up.
“I think the increase in demand started slightly before the pandemic, but the demand has increased quite a lot because of the pandemic and the need for capacity in this sector,” said Gulle.
TAM recently redelivered its second Saab 340B freighter (340B-171) for the year to Estonia-based Nyx Air. The aircraft was converted at TAM’s MRO facility in Orebro (ORB). The freighter joins the airline’s existing 340BF (340B-219) and other ATR and Saab turboprops in passenger configuration.
TAM’s 2021 redelivery targets include units converted at ORB and by its partners, which at present include C&L Aviation. C&L provides touch labor for the conversion at its Bangor (BGR) facility.
Worldwide Aircraft Services, another conversion house with a Saab 340 freighter-conversion STC, continues to convert the type as well as the EMB 120 and Fairchild Metroliners at its Springfield (SGF) facility. Worldwide previously told Cargo Facts that 2020 was its busiest year for conversions.
Although just four carriers operated the 340B in freighter configuration as of last year, at least one operator has already added the platform in 2021. In January, U.K.-based RVL Aviation added its first Saab 340F, on lease from turboprop lessor Jetstream. Another Jetstream-owned Saab 340B (340B-192) completed conversion at ORB earlier this year and was ferried to East Midlands (EMA) on March 22 to join RVL’s fleet.
Even though Saab ended production of the 340 in 1999, it continues to provide aftermarket support for the program. TAM-converted aircraft now going through heavy checks after a decade in service “are still in good shape,” said Gulle. With more than 450 of the type built, reasonably priced conversion candidates remain.
Looking beyond 2021, TAM expects to complete ten to fifteen conversions over the next couple of years, potentially more depending on the trajectory of passenger aviation recovery and demand for express services. Worldwide did not provide a conversion forecast, but there are currently ten of the type stored at SGF.
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