Lufthansa Technik's first A380 freighter

Published: Sunday, May 10, 2020

Thirteen years after the double-decker, long-hauler superjumbo by Airbus entered service as a passenger aircraft, the A380 could be used as a freighter for the first time. Lufthansa Technik revealed it was working for a new type certificate for the aircraft that would convert it into a temporary cargo plane.

With cargo demand on the rise and two-third of the global commercial fleet grounded for inactivity, the need for more freighters is ever increasing. “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 in a press release.

Lufthansa already converted several A330-300s into freighters (nicknamed Preighters by CEO Carsten Spohr) in the past months and said it was working to obtain Supplemental Type Certificates (STC) for cabin modifications of all types of passenger planes in order to offer them to airlines.

Among them, the MRO provider revealed that an undisclosed customer contracted Lufthansa Technik for a new to convert the cabin of the A380 for cargo transportation. The conversion of the superjumbo into a freighter would be a world’s first. As the world’s largest passenger airliner, its two-decked cabin and large hold should offer plenty of room for the transport of light cargo, such as the millions of protection masks that are being flown regularly from China.

Airbus already offers standardized kits for the A330 and the A350 that operators can install themselves. Once the economy-class seats are removed, airlines are able to install freight pallets directly onto the cabin floor seat tracks.

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The old idea of A380 Freighter
Back when the A380 was still on the drawing board, Airbus already considered turning its giant into a freighter. The aircraft was supposed to have a range of 10,410 km and its three bridges would have allowed it to accommodate standard containers and pallets for a total load of 150 metric tons. The project even received orders from FedEx and UPS. But due to developmental delays, the two customers eventually canceled their orders, and the low demand for the aircraft type forced Airbus to freeze the development.

The superjumbo sees its retirement accelerated by the coronavirus crisis. Lufthansa retired its A380 fleet permanently, and Air France could take the same decision. With 20% to 25% more fuel per seat than the latest generation long-haul aircraft, the near-future of the superjumbo is compromised. Airbus will end its production in 2021.