By Victor Shalton
Astral Aviation to Become Global Launch Operator of Airbus A320 P2F
Ahead of the Singapore Air Show, Kenya’s fastest-growing cargo airline, Astral Aviation, has announced that it will operate the first-ever Airbus A320 passenger to freighter (P2F) converted aircraft. ST Engineering 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 will be leasing a total of five Airbus A320 P2F aircraft to Vaayu Group, an aviation solutions provider based in the United Arab Emirates.
Astral Aviation, based at 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, Executive Vice President 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.”
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.
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 two A320 freighters Astral Aviation will be welcoming to its fleet will top up the carrier’s existing fleet of two Boeing 727-200s, one Boeing 767-200, one DC-9-30, one Fokker 27 and two Boeing 747-400s wet-leased from Air Atlanta Icelandic. The carrier is also due to receive three Boeing 757-200s from U.S.-based Aquila Air Capital, part of its fleet expansion drive
The A320P2F can handle 10 unit load device (ULD) containers as well as 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 have led Astral to consider other Airbus offerings.