Airbus A321 converted freighter receives certification from EASA

The A321P2F landing after its first flight. Photo: © Airbus

Airbus’ A321P2F ‘passenger-to-freighter’ conversion aircraft has been certified by the European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The type is now allowed to operate in commercial cargo service, with the first plane due to be delivered to leasing company Vallair.

Vallair is the launch customer for the A321P2F and will lease the first aircraft, MSN835 – former British Midland/bmi (G-MIDC) and later Onur Air ( TC-OBJ) – to Qantas Freight. As such, the aircraft will wear an Australian VH- registration, with delivery set for later this year. Qantas will operate the type on behalf of Australia Post.

The A321P2F can accommodate ten below deck cargo containers, and 14 in the previous passenger cabin, with a large side opening cargo door fitted to the front of the aircraft. Airbus plans for the aircraft to replace older Boeing 757 freighters, many of which themselves started life as passenger jets. The aircraft can carry 27.9 tonnes of cargo over a range of up to 2,300 nmi (4,260 km).

The regular A320 family for passenger use has always had a cargo advantage over its Boeing narrowbody rivals (737 and 757) as neither can accommodate a standardised cargo container in its underfloor hold area, as they don’t fit due to the shape and narrower width of the fuselage. The same is true of their respective cargo variants, so to be able to offer the A321 as a dedicated freight carrier opens up a range of new options for cargo operators.