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DHL acquired thirteen of the twenty-two A300-600s formerly operated by Japan Airlines, and will have them converted to freighter configuration by EADS EFW. Redelivery of the first converted freighter is reported to be scheduled for October of this year, with all thirteen redelivered by early 2013.
While the fuselages of the two aircraft have the same diameters, the A300-600 offers a 10% payload increase to 49 tonnes, and a 25% increase in range to 2,650 nm. It is also considerably more fuel efficient.
It is no secret that DHL has long been planning to replace the A300B4Fs, so seeing the ex-JAL aircraft with EAT registrations is no surprise. As shown in the chart at right, these are not the only A300s from the JAL fleet that will see a second life as freighters. Three units have been acquired by Abu Dhabi-based Maximus Air Cargo and will be converted at EFW, and, while we have seen no announcements by conversion houses, lessors, or carriers, we expect most of the other six will also be converted to freighter configuration.
While EFW is the conversion house that most people will think of when the subject of A300-600 conversions is mentioned, US-based Flight Structures Inc (FSI) also holds an STC for P-to-F conversions of A300-600 aircraft. China Southern Airlines was the launch customer for that program, with a six-conversion order, but only one of the six was done (at GAMECO in 2009). None of the parties involved has made any public statement about what torpedoed the deal, but after the first conversion, China Southern put all six of its A300-600s, including the newly-converted freighter, up for sale. Two of the pax units (750, 762) quickly went to Iran-based Saha Air, but the other four remained on China Southern’s certificate. Now, however, rumors from several sources indicate that Turkey-based all-cargo operator MNG will take all four – not just the freighter (733), but also the three passenger units (734, 739, 756) which it is reported to be planning to convert at its MRO arm, MNG Technic, under FSI’s STC (possibly using existing kits). MNG currently operates two A300-600Fs, six A300B4Fs, one 737-400F, and has two A330-200Fs on firm order with Airbus.
While this resurgence of interest in A300-600 freighters is good news for the conversion houses, we note that there is not a lot of available feedstock remaining (only 187 units were produced in passenger configuration). More A300-600 P-to-F conversions will certainly be done, but the future of Airbus freighter conversion programs now lies with the A320 and A330 families.