Airbus to produce A320 freighter version in JV with Russia's UAC and Irkut

Berlin: European aircraft manufacturer Airbus is set to launch a freighter version of its A320 passenger aircraft as a joint venture with Russian aerospace conglomerate, UAC, and its constituent member, Irkut, according to a report in the Financial Times Deutschland (FTD).

"By the end of May, the project's financing and the Germano-Russian company's new structure should be wrapped up," the FTD quoted company executive Andreas Sperl as saying. Sperl is director of the EADS-owned Elbe Flugzeugwerke plant in eastern Dresden, which will also be a partner in the proposed venture. 

Airbus is a division of European aerospace giant EADS.

According to Sperl, a potential client had already expressed interest in purchasing up to 30 of these freighters. The first prototype is slated to roll out in 2011 under a Airbus Freighter Conversion (AFC) programme that will oversee conversion of Airbus passenger aircraft into freighters.

Russian firms UAC and Irkut are already members of the joint venture with a 25 per cent share at term, while Airbus will own 18 per cent and the Dresden factory 32 per cent.

Sperl also said that the cost of converting the A320 is estimated at $100 million of which $70 million would be raised through bank credits.