Since people aren’t flying, aircraft are parked all over the world. Many of those passenger planes also carried cargo. While the worldwide economic slowdown has limited the amount of cargo being shipped as well, there’s tremendous demand for things like food and personal protective equipment. The reduction in cargo capacity has been greater than the reduction in cargo demand.
That’s created an opportunity to convert passenger aircraft to cargo. That isn’t simply a matter of flying with empty passenger cabins. To be efficient, it’s meant taking out seats and using the space for shipping pallets.
Passenger planes can’t just be loaded up with cargo in the cabin. The structural load capacity of the floor of the aircraft needs to be enhanced. There are also fire protection measures that need to be taken for carrying freight in the cabin (although some airlines have had flight attendants in the cabin rather than retrofitting).
Lufthansa’s maintenance, repair and overhaul division reports that they’ve had inquiries from 40 airlines to overhaul passenger aircraft to carry cargo instead and they’ve begun at least 15 projects. They’ve even gotten a project to turn an Airbus A380 into an all-cargo plane.
Credit: Lufthansa Technik
Lufthansa’s Senior Director Aircraft Modification Base Maintenance explains,
As the workscope comprises much more than just taking out seats, you need engineering experts who know exactly what the challenges are and how to document the technical solutions so correctly that the aviation authorities agree. The current exemption and our solution for it can be transferred to our Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) at a later point of time without major adjustments. This means that anyone who opts for Lufthansa Technik’s exceptional solution now can easily switch to the permanent STC solution later.
The Lufthansa MRO organization is working to obtain Supplemental Type Certificates for all common plane types to make for approved conversions for airlines around the world.