September 30, 2022
Six More Airbus A321 Freighter Conversions for Qantas
Airbus Airlines

Six More Airbus A321 Freighter Conversions for Qantas

DALLAS – To address rising e-commerce demand from its clients, Qantas Freight (QF) will expand its domestic fleet with six Airbus A321 passenger to freighter (P2F) aircraft.

The A321s, which are scheduled to gradually arrive between 2024 and mid-2026, will be purchased on the open market and converted to freighters, according to the Australian airfreight airline.The removal of seats and installation of a freight handling system are part of this modification project.

Qantas’ five Boeing 737 freighters in the long-term fleet, which are nearing the end of their useful lives, will be replaced by the A321. According to QF, each A321 freighter has a cargo capacity of 23 tonnes, nine tonnes more than the earlier 737s, and uses 30% less fuel per tonne of freight carried.

The remaining Boeing 737 freighters will be replaced by the three A321P2Fs, which the airline claims will result in increased training and maintenance efficiency.

Two widebody A330s are also being converted by QF into freighters, one of which will operate on the domestic network. Additionally, the cargo operation will keep adding wet-leased aircraft to its fleet as a supplement.

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Airbus A321 passenger to freighter (P2F). Photo: Airbus

What Goes into Converting a Passenger Aircraft?

The standard modifications that Airbus performs for the A321P2F include the door cut-out and installation of the new reinforced door-surround structure, the revised hydraulic system and the simplified air distribution and water & waste system, the window plugs and deactivated doors & emergency exits, cockpit upgrades and other systems.

Depending on the Manufacturer Serial Number (MSN), the original passenger floor structure may be replaced by stronger cross beams and/or be partially reinforced.

Whereas the A330P2F uses a 9g net in the forward fuselage, the A321P2F is equipped with a Rigid Cargo Barrier (RCB) which incorporates a sliding door to allow access to the main deck cargo compartment.

Airbus explains, “To maximize the available main deck space the RCB is located at the most forward position possible, between the foremost left and right-hand doors (“Doors 1 L/R”). In turn, this necessitates the original door-surround structures to be removed and re-skinned, while the doors themselves are replaced by a simplified Crew Entry Door (CED), and the lavatory is replaced by a new one re-located to the right-hand side.”

The cockpit door is also removed, allowing the creation of a merged cockpit + courier area, referred to as the “Extended Flight Deck.” In addition, the A321’s “Doors 4” L/R are removed and reskinned, which is necessary to accommodate a 14th full-size container position without limitation.

According to Airbus, this setup thus provides the A321P2F with enough space to accommodate 14 cargo containers measuring 88-inches x 125-inches (or pallets) on the main deck.

Photo: Qantas Freight

Comments from Qantas Group CEO

Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce said, “Qantas Freight plays a vital role in Australia’s supply chain and this investment will grow our operations so they can support increased demand for next-day delivery.”

“Qantas Freight has been one of the standout performers for the Group during the pandemic as Australians rapidly shifted to online shopping. While some of that shift is temporary, demand remains well-above pre-pandemic levels even with the lifting of almost all Covid-related restrictions.”

“This is one of the largest ever investments in our domestic freight fleet, that will enable Qantas Freight to capture more of that demand and will provide the opportunity to help Freight further grow revenue and earnings.”

Qantas and Atlas Air recently announced an extension of their agreement under which the latter will provide long-haul, widebody main-deck capacity using two Boeing 747-400Fs to support supply chains in Australia, Asia, and the US. Additionally, a 747-400F contract has been expanded to cover a route connecting the US, Australia, and Hong Kong.

Featured image: Airbus

Chief Online Editor
Chief Online Editor at Airways Magazine, AVSEC interpreter and visual artist; grammar geek, an avid fan of aviation, motorcycles, sci-fi literature, and film.

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