West Atlantic mulls different fleet replacement route

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Published: July 20, 2012

West Atlantic, Europe’s largest regional cargo airline, is looking at taking more Boeing 737s as it seeks to renew its fleet.

The company, formed in 2008 from Sweden’s West Air Europe and the UK’s Atlantic Airlines, was launch customer for the planned Airbus A320P2F freighter conversion. However, the project was cancelled by Airbus in summer 2011, leaving the carrier searching for a new solution for its equipment requirements.

“We’ve since taken on two Boeing 737-300s, which gives you an idea of the direction we’re having to head in, and we’re looking at the -400,” West Atlantic sales director Russell Ladkin said. “That’s the nearest capacity equivalent [to the A3202F] in Europe. “We still operate Lockheed Electras, which have a payload of 15 tonnes and the 737-400 is a logical replacement for that.”

West Atlantic believes that a fleet of about six aircraft is the minimum size to be viable and a mix of -300s and -400s is a likely outcome. “The difference between the two types is that the -400 has space for an extra pallet, which gives a payload of 21 tonnes compared to 17 tonnes,” he added. The A320P2F was planned to have a payload of 21-22 tonnes.

The new aircraft were likely to be acquired over the next 24 months, Ladkin said, but much depended on market conditions. “The continuing economic headwinds are proving to be longer and stronger than we expected and at the moment there is depressed demand.” However, the new aircraft would probably arrive “assuming the market doesn’t get any worse.”

Airbus dropped the A320P2F, citing a weak business case and noting it was difficult to find aircraft to convert that had both sufficient remaining hours and an affordable price tag. Ladkin said he still expected an A320 freighter to arrive eventually, probably after the A320neo started to make older airframes more readily available.

Photo: Courtesy, West Atlantic

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