Vallair, launch customer of the A321 freighter conversion (A321F), has delivered its third Airbus A321 freighter, bearing serial number 1017. This aircraft follows two Airbus A321Fs already delivered by Vallair that are presently in operation: MSN835 delivered in October 2020 and MSN 891 delivered in June 2021.
As the first ever Airbus A321 cargo conversion aircraft to have been inducted in China, MSN 1017 is now registered in Europe and has been delivered to SmartLynx Malta who will operate the aircraft on behalf of DHL.
Vallair has been engaged in cargo conversions for more than ten years and this delivery further strengthens its pioneering vision established at the start of the Airbus A321F conversion program. Data and feedback from existing operators confirm the A321 freighter variant is better for the environment due to its circa 15% reduction in fuel burn versus its most direct competitor, as well as offering exceptional range, payload, and additional cost benefits compared to other narrowbody competitors.
Following conversion, maintenance and painting activities have been carried out at Vallair’s specialist MRO facility located in Montpellier, France. Vallair’s dedicated paint facility is adjacent to its Montpellier MRO facility and can be used in conjunction with any narrowbody maintenance or modification input.
“As the first cargo conversion to take place in China, the delivery of MSN1017 to a European operator is another significant milestone for Vallair,” comments Patrick Leopold, Head of Trading & Leasing at Vallair. “Fuel efficiency, reduction of CO2 emissions, availability of feedstock and an aircraft type that is still in production are all key drivers of this program. Month on month we see the ever-augmenting demands of e-commerce and e-freight and the A321F is the ideal candidate in terms of payload and capacity — the ability to offer containerised cargo on the main and lower deck, thus reducing turn-around-times is also an advantage. It is, however, important to also remember that in addition to the vital role it continues to play in supporting the global economy, the air cargo market is now becoming increasingly important in powering global COVID vaccine distribution and feeding of the post-COVID global supply chain needs.”
“Last, but not least, today MSN1017 becomes the third Airbus A321 converted into freighter and delivered to its operator by Vallair, all within less than a year,” continues Leopold. “This further demonstrates our capability to successfully run such a program involving several stakeholders from all over the world. This has been made possible thanks to the dedication and efficiency of our engineering and project management teams who are also able to rely on our own industrial capabilities.”
According to aviation analysts IBA, there are four main catalysts for this spectacular growth in air cargo demand: e-commerce and e-shopping; time-sensitive and high value cargo; crude oil prices and cargo rates; and real GDP and world merchandise trade volumes.
Since delivering the world’s first A321 freighter to launch operator Qantas Freight in October 2020, Vallair’s cargo conversion program has continued to gain momentum with several projects underway and indications of firm interest from forward looking freight operators. It is anticipated that cargo specialists will require about 1,500 narrowbody converted aircraft over the next ten years. Of this total, 1,000 will replace the existing older fleet and 500 will be needed to support increased demand fueled particularly by booming e-commerce. Over the same period, Vallair believes the industry could see hundreds of A321 freighters taking to the skies.