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How the passenger-to-freighter aircraft conversion market took off

The passenger-to-freighter conversions market has experienced rapid and unprecedented growth over the last three years. Here, Jim Scott, owner of components solutions specialist Artemis Aerospace, discusses this impressive market expansion and how PTF conversions programmes are adapting to future demands.

When the pandemic pulled the plug on global air travel in 2020, the aviation industry was left reeling. Air passenger traffic was cut off overnight and billions were wiped from industry revenues. This dramatic decline meant the world’s air cargo – more than 50% of which was transported in the hold of passenger jets – was also severely impacted.

Despite freight aircraft continuing to operate, the grounding of passenger fleets resulted in a huge gap for air cargo operations that relied heavily on the extensive route networks travelled by passenger airlines.

Yet demand for air cargo capacity during this time was not waning. As well as the need to transport essential medical equipment and supplies, the sudden acceleration in e-commerce meant logistics providers, eager to take advantage of this growing sector, were searching for quick solutions to satisfy e-consumers’ appetites for fast and efficient deliveries.

In response, airlines adapted quickly seeking to mitigate huge losses by redeploying their passenger aircraft as ‘preighters’.

As passenger flights resumed, and demand for travel began to grow again, many of these ‘preighters’ have since returned to normal service.

However, with global e-commerce sales expected to grow by 10.4% in 2023, and 57% of people reporting that they shop internationally, according to Forbes, the need for air cargo capacity remains strong.

As supply chain logistics diversify and adapt to meet an ever-increasing list of customer expectations, the demand for new freighter aircraft has intensified with MROs working round the clock to fulfil orders.

The PTF market faces numerous challenges and resolving these has become essential for airlines that require flexibility in a continuously evolving industry.

One company that has been pioneering innovative, advanced and agile PTF solutions is Artemis’s customer Avensis Aviation with its portfolio of fully reversible cargo modifications, including MEDIUS – the first and only EASA STC certified conversion of its kind.

Initially launched by Avensis’s customer TAP Air Portugal for its division TAP Air Cargo in September, MEDIUS is a completely reversible solution that transforms passenger cabins into full Class-E cargo compartments, allowing airlines the freedom to adapt quickly to industry demands.

Suitable for both narrow and widebody aircraft types, and incorporating a supernumerary cabin section, MEDIUS is undoubtedly a practical choice for airlines that need to consider aircraft leasing restrictions while responding to fluctuating demands.

Boeing’s 2022 World Air Cargo Forecast predicts the global freighter fleet will grow by more than 60% by 2041 with the Asia-Pacific region taking more than a third of deliveries. For airlines, this presents multiple opportunities for future-proofing their businesses.