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Sichuan Airlines accepts 1st A330 converted in China for cargo


The Civil Aviation Administration of China has issued the design certification for Airbus’ structural modification of the A330 from passenger to cargo aircraft, enabling delivery of the first plane rebuilt in China and paving the way for more Chinese airlines to operate the freighter.

Elbe Fluzeugwerke GmbH (EFW), co-owned by manufacturer Airbus and Singapore-based ST Engineering, said Tuesday it delivered the first of two A330-300 converted freighters to Sichuan Airlines. CDB Aviation, the Irish subsidiary of China Development Bank, paid for the conversion and is leasing the cargo jet to Sichuan Airlines.

The validation from China’s aviation authority, which applies to the A330-200 and A330-300 variants, enables aircraft owners with A330 passenger jets registered in China to easily undergo conversions through the EFW program at airframe repair sites in China or other countries. 

The A330 conversion for CDB Aviation was conducted at ST Engineering’s airframe facility in Shanghai. The delivery was about six months behind schedule. EFW did not give a reason for the delay, though supply chain challenges have slowed conversion facilities for more than a year and regulators have faced personnel shortages since COVID.

Sichuan Airlines is a large passenger airline with more than 180 aircraft, including three factory-built A330-200s. (Airbus discontinued making the type about eight years ago.)

Demand from lessors and operators for passenger-to-freighter conversions of the A330 is robust with available supply for used Boeing 767s, which dominate the conversion market in the medium-size widebody category, beginning to dwindle.

EFW and ST Engineering have over three years established nine conversion sites worldwide for the A330 and the standard-size A320/321. In China, the joint venture also has conversion sites in Chengdu for the A330 and Guangzhou and Tianjin for the A321.

The A330-200 has a gross payload of up to 60 tons while the large A330-300 can carry 66 tons.

CDB Aviation only leased passenger aircraft before 2022. It was EFW’s first customer for the A330  and has contracted for 14 cargo reconfigurations. CDB’s next delivery will be an A330-200 to Jiangxi Cargo Airlines.

Israel Aerospace Industries also has established a program for converting A330s for cargo.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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