Finnair modified two Airbus A330 aircraft for cargo use – see how the cabin changed
Finnair has modified two Airbus A330 wide-body aircraft for cargo use by removing economy class seats from the cabin. This way the freight can be carried in the cabin in addition to the cargo hold. This doubles the cargo capacity of the aircraft.
The free cabin space will be used mainly for shipping supplies needed in the coronavirus pandemic.
In normal times, about 50% of the world’s freight is carried in passenger aircraft. Passenger traffic has recently dropped dramatically due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has decreased the availability of cargo. There’s now increasing demand for urgent cargo shipments.
Finnair engineer Nea Maeda, who’s specialised in aircraft weight and balance, led the modification project.
“Passenger and cargo aircraft have different requirements. Passenger planes are built to fly people and cargo planes are made to carry freight. The weight of people and cargo is distributed in a different way inside the aircraft,” Maeda explains.
As the demand for air cargo started growing with the pandemic, several airlines started looking for solutions. Out of the box solutions for modifying a passenger aircraft for cargo use did not exist.
“In a normal situation, modifying an A330 aircraft for cargo use would require a heavy qualification approval process. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency EASA has now published a permit for exception to make limited changes due to the exceptional situation. We got great support from the authorities,” Maeda says.
So how did the planes change?
“In this type of project, it’s important to know the maximum load, i.e. how much freight you can bring in the cabin. We also assessed carefully where we could place the cargo and what kind of items we could transport in the cabin.”
In the end, Economy seats and entertainment system power cords were removed. They were replaced with nets for safely attaching the cargo.
About half of the existing capacity of the widebody aircraft is already reserved for cargo below the cabin. It took the team fewer than two days to remove the seats.
There’s a lot of demand for cargo even during this exceptional time. Last week, Finnair flew 57 cargo flights with wide-body aircraft to China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, New York, Brussels, Dublin, and Tallinn.
As the demand for supply passenger traffic increases, the planes can also be returned to passenger operations quickly.