Qantas flies world’s first A321 converted passenger freighter

written by Adam Thorn | October 29, 2020
Qantas A321-231 Passenger to Freighter Conversion, VH-ULD, landed in Melbourne
Australian Aviation photographer Dave Soda was in Melbourne last week to capture the moment the A321-231 Passenger to Freighter Conversion, VH-ULD, landed in Melbourne (Dave Soda)

Qantas has finally begun flying the world’s first A321 converted to carry cargo rather than passengers.

Australian Aviation photographer Dave Soda was in Melbourne last week to capture the moment the A321-231 Passenger to Freighter Conversion, VH-ULD, landed in Melbourne.

The A321P2F is operated by Qantas in partnership with Australian Post and is one of three to be delivered to the airline. The flag carrier traditionally uses its 737-300Fs for its freight services and this particular Airbus was originally delivered to British Midland in 1998 as G-MIDC.

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Last year, Australian Aviation reported how Qantas and Australia Post agreed an expanded seven-year contract covering both domestic and international air freight worth $1 billion, with the A321 a part of the deal.

“Consumer preferences and expectations are rapidly changing and together with Australia Post we’re responding by growing our dedicated freighter fleet to provide a better experience for consumers and businesses,” Qantas group chief executive Alan Joyce said in a statement.

Figures from Airbus showed the A321P2F could carry up to 27.9 tonnes of cargo in a two-deck layout comprising up to 14 containers on the main deck and up to 10 containers on the lower deck. The aircraft had a range of 2,300 nautical miles.

Qantas said the A321P2F would be able to carry nine more tonnes of freight compared with its existing 737 freighters, which represented about 50 per cent more capacity.

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The conversion has been led by Singapore aerospace firm ST Engineering, which partnered with Airbus and German aerospace business Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW).

The A321P2F, first landed in Australia in Perth. VH-ULD msn 00835 departed Seletar, Singapore, as flight QF7300 at 9:08am on 14 October and landed in Perth at 2:16pm.

16 Comments

  • Vannus

    says:

    This is a great way to keep some QANTAS aircraft flying, & income-making as well!
    Love the livery!

  • Al

    says:

    Very clever registration – the last 3 letters stand for Unit Load Device which are the containers in which the freight is carried
    At least, I’m assuming this was no accidental registration!

  • Jasper

    says:

    Yes, very clever rego… Usual Late Deliveries

  • nathan

    says:

    how do they get rid of the windows, and can they convert it back to passengers one day ?

  • Shane

    says:

    spot on AL, I am sure it was on purpose

  • Ron

    says:

    every day our “politicians” hammer down our throats the mantra “create jobs”
    why was that conversion not done here ????
    like almost all aircraft maintenance work is contracted overseas
    are we incapable of high quality engineering work ????
    footy and dirt digging is of course less demanding, add to that enjoying home life while being employed by our largest employer = job seeker
    no wonder Oz is the favoured country for migration

  • AlanH

    says:

    Looks pretty good in its new livery for a 22-year-old aircraft. Wonder how many cycles and hours it has done overall.

  • Geoff

    says:

    Can only imagine how quickly the turn arounds will be with containers upstairs and downstairs.

  • Jim Thorn

    says:

    Do the crew get free Cartier watches?

  • Brian Jackson

    says:

    It’s 22 years old!!!

  • Chris Mapstone

    says:

    The windows remain, they are a structural component of the aircraft.

  • Ian Hogarth

    says:

    Really a good plan. Was converted to freight in January 2020 I believe. Its had a few owners and also has been stored for a few years. looks like a good aircraft. Don’t know how many cycles for the airframe but likely to be on a par for European short haul.

  • Barney

    says:

    Does this mean our mail to the UK can now be delivered in days not weeks (Covid-19).

  • Rocket

    says:

    @AL
    I noticed that too straight away.
    Technically however, ULDs are not ‘containers’. ULDs are anything that ‘unitises’ the load placed on an aircraft, which is loaded into a ‘mechanised hold’ comprising 2 or more compartments (e.g. Forward Hold is usually Compartment 1 and 2).
    So, a pallet is a ULD as well as a ‘container’. Bigger ULDs that are constructed like a ‘container’ are similarly called ‘pallet-base’ ULDs (indicating the ‘base’ of the ULD conforms to standard pallet sizes).
    It’s a common misuse of terminology which I used to use but having trained personnel in Load Control and having had a lot of time managing such processes I became a convert to the correct terminology. It’s a bit like the media (and many in the industry) constantly referring to runways, taxiways and aprons as ‘the tarmac’. Tarmac is a road surface material, originating from the the word ‘tar’ and the name of the Scots Engineer who invented it ‘MacAdam’……. originally ‘tarmacadam’ – in reality, other than smaller and regional/country airstrips, the overwhelming majority of major and minor airports do not use ‘tarmac’ or anything like it, for the reason that it melts in the heat and can be melted by engine exhaust. Aprons, Taxiways and Runways are overwhelmingly concrete.

  • Rocket

    says:

    @ NATHAN

    Window plugs. The windows are still there, just ‘plugged’.

    Have a look at the Kiwi movement ‘bring our birds home’. They talk on there about getting a 747-219B and a DC-8-52 ex NZ aircraft back to NZ to go into a museum, both are converted to freighters and the presenter (with an Engineering background) observes that the windows have been blocked but that’s fine, we can remove the window plugs during the restoration for the museum.

  • Rocket

    says:

    @ RON

    I’m pretty sure Qantas could handle it but it’s probably a question of capacity to handle the work, there is a lot of specialisation for this sort of stuff now and it is hard to compete with big dedicated engineering outfits who do this all the time.

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