Largest passenger aircraft in the world, the Airbus A380 was even considered to operate cargo flights in the A380F variant, however, the project did not go far. The COVID-19 crisis, however, created the conditions for the debut of the Airbus double deck jet as a freighter aircraft.
Lufthansa Technik, the maintenance division of the German group, announced this week that it had received a demand from an unidentified customer to convert an A380 to perform cargo services.
The change will be temporary, to take advantage of the rising demand for cargo transportation during the pandemic. Despite this, Lufthansa Technik stated that the conversion could be final if its customer so wishes.
According to the company, more than 15 planes of various types are being converted from passengers to cargo at this time, including the A380. Adaptation requires more than removing seats, and it is necessary to document the technical solutions adopted to be approved by regulatory agencies.
“Over the past days, we have received strong interest from different airlines regarding our passenger to freighter service capabilities,” explained Henning Jochmann, Senior Director Aircraft Modification Base Maintenance at Lufthansa Technik.
An aircraft certified to carry passengers cannot simply be loaded with cargo. The floor of a cargo and passenger plane is different, being able to support a higher weight. On the other hand, a cargo jet needs an anti-fire system while dispensing oxygen supply points or escape routes in evacuations.
Early in its commercial career, the A380 was offered by Airbus as a cargo aircraft. Specialized companies such as UPS and Fedex became interested in the aircraft, which would be able to transport 150 tons on routes of up to 10,410 km.
The first prototype of the A380-800F even had some parts produced in 2005 and accumulated 27 orders, but in the following year the four companies that had ordered the aircraft (in addition to Fedex and UPS also Emirates and ILFC) canceled their reservations.
With the mass withdrawal of the A380 from the passenger service, due to the expectation of small demand in international air traffic, the possibility of converting the approximately 240 aircraft manufactured may be a worthy outlet for the massive four-engine aircraft.