Coronavirus: Airbus tests cargo conversion kit for widebody passenger aircraft

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Airbus is developing a modification for A330 and A350 family aircraft which will enable airlines to install freight pallets directly onto the cabin floor seat tracks, after removal of the economy-class seats.

The European aircraft-maker hopes the modification will help  airlines’ business continuity and help alleviate the global shortage of air cargo capacity because of the widespread grounding of long-haul aircraft during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition, the conversion solution could be used to help address the high demand for humanitarian flights to transport  medical equipment and other supplies rapidly over large distances to where they are needed.

The conversion makes it easier and quicker to load and unload cargo compared with loading it onto seats and reduces wear and tear on the seats themselves. Other important benefits include the added security of robust fire protection, and the 9g load restraint capability to prevent anything from shifting in flight.

The modification is packaged for operators as an Airbus Service Bulletin (SB). Under this arrangement Airbus defines the engineering workscope and also manages the process for obtaining the one-time certification from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

The SB covers the removal of the seats and inflight entertainment systems, installation of cargo pallets and associated safety equipment – and also the re-installation of the original passenger cabin elements for reverting back to passenger operations. The SB approach will also be valid beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before eventually becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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