As a fall out from COVID-19, passenger to freight (P2F) conversions are emerging as a new growth sector for MROs for several reasons:
• There’s a shortage of passenger jet belly capacity;
• Worldwide E-commerce is thriving;
• Aircraft are being returned to lessors from failed airlines;
• P2F conversions provide operators a viable option to extend the life of their assets; and
• Cargo operators are reluctant to invest in new build cargo aircraft when there is an abundance of aircraft ready to convert.
In its last 20-year outlook, Boeing predicted airlines will need 2,430 additional freighters and of that number, 1,500 would be P2F conversions. That figure is only 390 lower than predicted in 2019. “The circumstances thrown up by the pandemic have been the ‘perfect storm’ for P2F programmes” said Jens Steinhagen, Director, Boeing Freighter Conversions. “During 2020, the passenger fleet was largely parked and the industry realised this was going to be a long-term thing. This improved the availability of feedstock and helped to bring down the price of the asset.1
The demand for aircraft to be used solely for air freight has accelerated sufficiently that P2F converters are under pressure to deliver converted aircraft quickly. And P2F conversion is an extensive and complex job involving:
• Changing the aircraft mission and configuration and adapting it to a new market
• Major structural modifications as required for the new configuration
• Installation of specific systems as required for the new missions
• Certification – Supplementary Type Certificate (STC) or amendment of a Type Certificate (TC)
And the typical conversion tasks can include:
• Removing anything that is no longer needed such as interior equipment and furnishings
• Replacing or reinforcing floor beams to meet cargo load requirements
• Installing Main Deck Cargo Door and non-powered/powered Cargo Loading System
• Installation of hydraulic/electric MDCD operation system
• Installation of 9g rigid barrier/net
• Modifying the area behind the cockpit
• Modifying the cargo compartment to Class E
• Installation of a one-minute smoke detecting system
• Installation of lightweight window plugs
Working efficiently and safely around all areas of an aircraft during conversions will improve productivity and minimise risk, therefore making P2F work simpler and easier.
Semmco specialises in providing safe working at height access platforms and stands, docking systems and steps so that engineers can reach all relevant areas to carry out work easily and safely. Products are robust – built to last, are manufactured from quality materials and designed with the user in mind. The products includes fixed systems providing extensive access to the aircraft sides, over wing access, nose and tail docking systems and APU access as well as manoeuvrable PAX steps and under cowl access steps. Where possible, the products are modular, designed to support a range of aircraft and the mobile products are easy to move around and position with minimal manual handling.
All of the products are manufactured from lightweight, aluminium construction and stairs and platforms are slip resistant with self-draining tread. Some products incorporate unique sliding and folding hand rails and extendable ‘fingers’ so that they can be positioned as close to the aircraft as possible, minimising risk around extended reach for the engineer and ensuring that there are no gaps in the floor of the product. Where applicable products are fitted with edge and railing “soft” protective padding to prevent damage to the aircraft.
Even after the pandemic is over, there is genuine expectation that e-commerce will continue to thrive and while airfreight remains in demand, there will be a market for continued P2F conversions. As this industry thrives, Semmco is here to support all MROs, particularly those wanting to do a professional efficient job, whilst focusing on team safety.
1 Flight International, February 2021 – “Second Lives”