Airbus launch partner Vallair is set to start the first A321 freighter conversion in China.
The work will be undertaken for Vallair by EFW at the ST Engineering facility in Guangzhou, with the aircraft planned for delivery in the third quarter of next year to charter and ACMI operator SmartLynx.
“We are excited to be embarking on the next phase of our A321 passenger to freighter conversion activity” says Gregoire Lebigot, CEO of Vallair. “MSN 1017 will be the first of nine aircraft scheduled to be converted in China, this is an important milestone.”
Vallair previously partnered with EFW, an Airbus joint venture with ST Engineering, in Asia on the conversion of its first A321F, which was delivered to launch operator Qantas Freight in October.
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The company recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with US airline operator GlobalX (Global Crossing Airlines) for 10 conversions, and it has leased a further two to SmartLynx Malta.
“Vallair is keen to introduce the A321F to the Chinese market as we see strong potential for the freighter in its active e-commerce sector,” said Lebigot.
The company said that the A321 freighter variant’s lower cargo hold allows space for shipping of containerised cargo in addition to its normal cargo positions. This in turn reduces turnaround times and increases load efficiency.
“Our decision to commission the conversion process for a significant number of our lease portfolio ‘in-country’ demonstrates not only our confidence in the future implementation of this type, but also our commitment to local technical and engineering resources,” added Lebigot.
SmartLynx who will receive the first A321 freighter conversion next year had added its cargo service in April this year. The charter operator has A320s and A321s in its fleet and can operate at any airport in China suitable for these types of aircraft.