One of the few bright spots for the airline industry over the past one year has been the strong demand for freighters, which is for a big part driven by the robust cargo market.
The loss of belly-hold capacity through the sharp fall in long-haul passenger travel and the logistical challenge it presents also contributed to the increased interest in dedicated freighters. Creative solutions can be found in the modification of passenger aircraft into temporary cargo carriers, while others of a more permanent nature are available in passenger-to-aircraft conversion and the leasing of freighters, all of which ST Engineering is able to provide through our diverse suite of aerospace solutions.
As a conversion house that has redelivered over 400 aircraft through its Passenger-to-Freighter (P2F) programmes since 1996, ST Engineering is today one of the world’s largest and most experienced solution providers for freighter conversion. The Group’s track record is contributed in part by its joint venture with Airbus, Elbe Flugzeugwerke, which is the STC holder for a portfolio of narrowbody and widebody new-generation freighter conversion programmes, namely the Airbus A320/A321 and A330P2F.
Although the growing demand for conversions, driven by the needs of the big integrators, pre-dates COVID-19, the pandemic has undoubtedly added more fuel to this fire. And while there may be more conversion houses and options coming up in the market, not all solutions are created equal. This is where ST Engineering and EFW’s solutions make a difference, given our decades of experience in the industry.
Only Airbus P2F design in the world using OEM technical data
In contrast to other solutions providers who rely on reverse engineering, ST Engineering and EFW’s Airbus P2F programmes are developed using OEM technical data to convert passenger aircraft into well-optimised and reliable freighter workhorse. Airbus has performed numerous analysis and participated in design reviews, which helped lead to design solutions that are far superior in terms of performance, reliability, maintainability and life cycle cost.
Bigger Payload, Higher Flexibility
ST Engineering and EFW’s A321P2F solution has above 28 metric tons (over 61.800 lbs) of proven gross payload, which is more than one ton above the payload others in the market currently offer. Further to the 10 lower deck AHK positions, our best-in-class volume allows for 14 full-sized AAY main deck container positions. As for our medium widebody freighter solution, the Airbus A330P2F solution offers up to 30% more volume and payload at about 20% less fuel burn per ton when compared to its successful A300-600 predecessor.
An A321P2F in operation (source: Titan Airways)
In terms of flexibility, our solution also comes with optimised weight distribution to enable random loading even on empty flights, which is especially beneficial to express carriers. The Ancra-produced cargo-loading system (CLS) chosen for the A321/A320P2F solution can support ULDs other than the 88inch x 125inch containers on option, for instance the 96inch x125inch containers. The latter can facilitate interlining with widebody freighters such as the A330P2F and/or disposition of empty pallets and 88inch x 108inch pallets.
High fuel efficiency, low maintenance costs
Our CG (center of gravity) optimised conversion design results in a well-balanced freighter that requires tremendously less trimming which, according to Airbus’ route analysis calculations, can potentially save up to about USD250,000 in fuel cost per year (depending on mission profile). The stress and fatigue optimised solution also brings about reduced maintenance cost, which will provide further competitive advantages over the long run.
One-stop solutions that go beyond conversion
ST Engineering’s solutions cover the whole life cycle of the freighter by tapping on its other expertise in MRO and asset management. Operators can choose to convert and/or lease with the Group, and enjoy add-on maintenance services at any of its global facilities in Asia Pacific, Europe and the U.S. For customers who want to focus on their core operations, they will be able to do so by coming to us for integrated solutions all under one roof, may it be in aircraft engineering, financing, asset management or maintenance.
Choice of conversion locations across the globe
With conversion facilities spread across the globe in locations such as Singapore, China, Germany, and soon the U.S., ST Engineering offers an array of geographical choices that help see to the scheduling needs and convenience of its customers. Under ongoing capacity expansion plans, more conversion slots will be made available to address the long-term requirements of a growing market. Quality assurance can be found at all of these facilities, which are increasingly incorporating smart technologies such as robotics into the conversion process to boost productivity and ensure on-time deliveries.
A robotic arm being used to drill the holes into the floor grid of the freighter undergoing conversion
Leading the way in freighter solutions
As the global economy gradually emerges from COVID-19 and eventually climbs back to the pre-pandemic level, e-commerce fulfilment demand will continue to exert significant influence on the freighter market. The spotlight on dedicated freighters will hence very much likely stay as one of the pandemic’s lasting legacies, even as more passenger aircraft or combination carriers take to the air.
In this “new era” for the freighter market, ST Engineering is well positioned to meet the market’s needs. By drawing from its arsenal of solutions that address the full life cycle of a freighter, starting from deal origination and financing, to conversion, lease management and even end-of-life solutions, the Group will help lead the way in freighter solutions.