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New A321 converted freighter passes first test flight in US

A joint venture between Air Transport Services Group (NASDAQ: ATSG) and Precision Aircraft Solutions successfully completed a first test flight in Florida with an Airbus A321 converted from passenger configuration into a freighter, the companies announced late Sunday.

The A321 converted freighter is entering the market to challenge the Boeing 737-800 in the regional, express delivery segment. Its ability to carry air containers makes it a potential replacement aircraft for aging Boeing 757 freighters. 

321 Precision is one of two aviation engineering houses that have designed conversions for the single-aisle aircraft. As previously reported, Australia’s Qantas Cargo took delivery of the first A321 freighter, which was built by Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmbH (EFW)  for Vallair, a French company that leases used aircraft.

The 321 Precision aircraft, which has already been claimed by Vallair, will now undergo a series of certification test flights, with final approval of the design change by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration expected late this year or early 2021. Among the changes are the addition of a wide cargo door on the fuselage and other sub-systems.

ATSG is an aircraft leasing and contract cargo airline for customers such as online retailer Amazon. It also owns a conversion company called Pemco Conversions. The A321s are being sold to interested leasing companies and operators, but ATSG could eventually keep some for its own fleets.

“Our goal was to produce an A321 freighter designed to be the best freighter for the mission. That means the best for the operators who operate it, the best for crews who fly it and load it, and the best for the investors who own it. In short, the best designed cargo conversion for all parties, available for the A321 — one of finest air transport aircraft flying,” ATSG President and CEO Rich Corrado said in a statement. “By all measures, we have accomplished that.”

Precision Aircraft Solutions of Beaverton, Oregon, is known for its work converting B757s into cargo configurations.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at