In Photos: Hi Fly Converts Airbus A340 Into Freighter

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Portuguese wet-lease specialist carrier Hi Fly is betting that the uptick in cargo demand will persist even as passenger air travel demand remains stunted. First, it converted its A380 as well as one of its A330s into cargo freighters. Furthermore, the airline has now completed the reconfiguration of three of its A340s. Let’s have a look at what the long-range quad-jet looks like post-makeover.

A340 Hi Fly cargo conversion
Hi Fly’s 9H-JAI is the latest to join the carrier’s cargo operations. Photo: Hi Fly

The conversions of passenger jets into dedicated cargo aircraft have been an ongoing theme for the past few months. In lieu of carrying people and, subsequently, transporting cargo in the bellies of passenger planes, airlines have taken to transporting goods only to earn some much-needed cash.

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Fifth from the fleet

Commercial airlines have responded to the increased cargo demand by stripping cabins of their seats to make room for pallets and boxes. One of the more ambitious carriers to go down this road is Portuguese Hi Fly. The wet lease specialist has converted a full five of its widebody aircraft – including its superjumbo A380.

A340 Hi Fly conversion
The latest edition to Hi Fly’s all-cargo fleet has been carrying passengers for close to 22 years.

9H-JAI

The latest part of the fleet to undergo a cargo-makeover is A340-300 9H-JAI. The near 22-year-old widebody begun its service with Singapore Airlines back in 1998, transitioned to Emirates in 2004 and joined Hi Fly’s fleet of aircraft in 2017. It is registered under the company’s Malta branch.

A340 Hi Fly conversion
The wet lease specialist has converted half of its A340-300s. Photo: Ev Brown via Flickr

Following the conversion, the aircraft now has over 250 m3 of volume capacity. This means it can carry a full 50 tons of cargo. While the A380 retained some seats in the cabin, namely those of business and first-class, 9H-JAI has been stripped entirely bare.

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Careful cabin layout

Turning a passenger jet into a cargo freighter is not as easy as merely taking out the seats. There are a ton of permits to be filed for and approved, and planning to make sure the permitted load of the main cabin is not exceeded. The rectangles painted on the cabin floor all have a designated max weight.

Hi Fly A340 conversion
The aircraft can now take 50 tons of cargo. Photo: Hi Fly

Retirement potentially postponed?

Following the general trend of letting go of four-engined jets, the Portuguese carrier has previously announced that it intended to retire its A340s by 2022. Could these conversions mean that the iconic four-engined model might have a new lease on life with the operator?

According to Planespotters.net, Hi Fly has a total of six in its fleet. All of them are of the smaller version, the A340-300, although it has previously operated both the 500 and the 600.

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Hi Fly A340 conversion
Could the cargo makeover mean Hi Fly will extend its relationship with the quad-jet? Photo: Hi Fly

Relationship goals

The relationship – pre-conversion – has seen some pretty spectacular milestones. In April this year, the carrier operated a 16-hour A340 flight over Antarctica, from Montevideo, Uruguay to Melbourne, Australia. The flight, repatriating passengers from the cruise ship Greg Mortimer, was one of the longest A340 flights ever.

In December 2018, Hi Fly operated the world’s first entirely plastic-free flight with one of its A340s. Flying from Lisbon to Natal, Brazil, the carrier and its classic quad-jet showed just what is possible in transitioning to a post-plastic era. Let’s hope it will keep its focus on sustainability throughout its newfound use of the plane for cargo operations.

What do you think, will cargo demand be significant enough for Hi Fly to hold on to its A340s beyond 2022? Let us know in the comments. 

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