Astral Aviation to Operate World’s First Airbus A320 Passenger to Frighter Aircraft

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Ahead of the Singapore Air Show, Kenya’s cargo airline Astral Aviation has announced that it will operate the world’s first-ever Airbus A320 passenger to freighter (P2F) converted aircraft.

ST Engineering yesterday announced it will be carrying out the conversion and expects to place the first A320 P2F jet on lease in the second quarter of 2022.

The company plans to lease a total of five Airbus A320 P2F aircraft to Vaayu Group, an aviation solutions provider based in the United Arab Emirates.

Astral Aviation based in Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport will subsequently be the launch operator for the first two of the five A320P2F aircraft by sub-leasing them from Vaayu.

Yip Heng Meng, EVP/Head of Aviation Asset Management at ST Engineering, said, “We are excited to welcome Vaayu as our first A320P2F lessee customer, and for Astral Aviation to be the first airline in the world to operate such a platform. As an aviation asset solution provider that is backed by other integrated lifecycle capabilities including freighter conversion and MRO, we are able to provide comprehensive solutions not offered by other service providers, and help operators gain a competitive edge.”

Emad Al Monayea, Chairman and President, Vaayu Group, said, “The upside of the pandemic was an increase of sales in e-commerce space. For freighters and cargo handlers worldwide, this was unexpected. We saw this coming. We simply fast-tracked the process; from conception to a reality in this A320P2F programme.”

Sanjeev Gadhia, CEO at Astral Aviation, said, “We are truly honored to be the launch operator for the A320P2F which is also the first Airbus in Astral’s fleet of 14 freighter aircraft. The Airbus range of freighter aircraft are impressive and will add immense value to Astral’s fleet and network expansion, which will result in Astral considering future freighter aircraft acquisitions of the A320, A321, A330-300 and A350.”

The A320P2F is one of the two variants – the other being the A321P2F – in the Airbus narrowbody P2F programme by ST Engineering, Airbus and their joint venture Elbe Flugzeugwerke.

Together, the two A320 freighters will supplement Astral’s existing fleet of two B727-200s, one B767-200, one DC-9-30, one Fokker 27, alongside two B747-400s wet-leased from Air Atlanta Icelandic. The carrier is also due three B757-200s from US-based Aquila Air Capital.

The A320P2F can handle 10 ULD containers + one pallet position on the main deck, and seven ULD containers on the lower deck. It can haul a payload of 17 tonnes up to 4,700 kilometres and 21 tonnes over 3,300 kilometres making it ideal for established general freight and express markets. As such, the A320/321P2F’s fly-by-wire cockpit commonality with the A330 widebody family of passenger and freighter aircraft has lead Astral to consider other Airbus offerings.

ST Engineering is showcasing its freighter conversion, leasing and other aerospace capabilities at the Aviation cluster of the ST Engineering Pavilion (G01) from 15 – 18 February at Singapore Airshow 2022.

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