In this exclusive scoop, acquired at grave personal danger, Cargo Facts breaks the news of the latest development in the freighter conversion industry.
In our post yesterday we dealt with two problems facing the freighter conversion industry – the differing opinions on the likelihood of a P-to-F program for the 777-200ER, and whether, at the other end of the size spectrum, the market could support all the new narrowbody programs either launched or about to be launched. You can read that post here, but today we go much further, and tear away the veil of secrecy from a new program (code-named P-to-D) under development in a hidden facility in the US Pacific Northwest.
Early this week, at the Cargo Facts Aircraft Symposium, during a session devoted to the narrowbody freighter market, Gary Warner, President of Precision Aircraft Solutions, hinted (more than once) that Precision was working on a new program which would ramp up as its current 757-200 P-to-F program wound down.
Most in the audience probably assumed this new program would be centered on the narrowbody aircraft closest in size to the 757 which Precision currently offers – likely the A321. Cargo Facts, on the other hand, thought more deeply about the question. EFW and PACAVI have already formally launched A321 P-to-F programs, and IAI-Bedek said it was also considering entering the ring. This, combined with the many, many, programs for conversion of other narrowbody aircraft led us to wonder whether Precision might be planning to go in a completely different direction.
Perhaps a widebody? Not an easy market, but certainly one in which there is less competition. Was an A330-300PCF on the horizon? A 767-300PCF?
Indeed, Precision has fooled the world before. Think back two years when Cargo Facts broke the news of the development of the ultimate freighter. The freighter conversion program that would eliminate the need for all other programs. The PCP. The Precision Converted Pumpkin. At the time, Precision told Cargo Facts that program was some way from completion, but that it expected certification by 31 October, 2015. That is tomorrow, but Cargo Facts believes that other conversion houses have conspired with the FAA to block granting of an STC.
However, whether this conspiracy will succeed is now moot, because, during an undercover mission to the secret facility in Oregon, we have learned that Precision was all along one step ahead of its competitors, and the whole Precision Converted Pumpkin program was a hoax, aimed at keeping prying eyes away from the real goal – the P-to-D.
As has become clear to even the most slow-witted observer of the air freight industry, the future of air freight lies in the explosion of e-commerce worldwide. Forget 747 freighters full of iPhones. Oh, sure, there will be some demand for that sort of thing for another year or two, but any carrier that wishes to stay in the cargo business must focus on getting a pair of shoes or a box of diapers to the shopper who ordered it from a website controlled by Alibaba or Amazon.
And how will Amazon and Alibaba get this package to you? You who can’t wait until next week, but want that box of diapers tomorrow at the latest? Think about what Amazon has been in the news for lately. What has Amazon been pressuring the FAA about?
Yes. drones are the key to fast and affordable last-mile delivery, and fast and affordable last-mile delivery is what will keep the wheels of e-commerce turning.
And not only package delivery. Think about all the other uses for drones. The need to be able to see into, or get something into, a place too dangerous or difficult for a human to be.
On that note, we offer the first-ever photograph of the solution to this problem: The Precision Pumpkin-to-Drone conversion, shown here in fire-fighting configuration, dropping a load of retardant (on an out of control birthday cake candle just out of the frame).