European aircraft manufacturer, Airbus is developing a conversion system that will allow freight pallets to be installed on the cabin floor of its A330 and A350 widebody passenger aircraft. The solution will enable airlines to mount cargo shipments to the seat tracks following the removal of the economy-class seats.
Airbus has designed the solution in a bid to alleviate the global reduction of belly freight air cargo capacity due to the widespread grounding of long-haul aircraft, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The airframer hopes the modification will enable airlines to meet the growing demand for humanitarian flights to transport large quantities of medical equipment.
Compared with loading cargo onto seats, Airbus says its solution facilitates easier and quicker loading and unloading operations, as well as reduced wear and tear to the seats themselves. Other benefits include the added security of robust fire protection and the 9g load restraint capability to prevent anything from shifting in flight.
The modification is packaged for operators as an Airbus service bulletin (SB). Under this arrangement, the Netherlands-based firm defines the engineering work scope and manages the process of obtaining a one-time certification from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
The service bulletin includes the removal of the seats and associated inflight entertainment systems, the installation of cargo pallets and safety equipment, as well as the re-installation of original passenger cabin elements for reverting to normal operations.
The SB approach will also allow the configuration to be valid beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.