UPS Retrofits State Of The Art Cockpits In Its Airbus A300s

Back in 2017, UPS announced it was partnering with Honeywell to upgrade the cockpit technology on its fleet of 52 A300s. This week, the cargo giant took to Twitter to show off the new A300 cockpit upgrade after the first aircraft arrived back in the US. The aim of the refurbishment is to ensure the freighters remain in use until 2035.

UPS A300 cockpit refurb
UPS has received its first newly-refurbished A300. The aircraft was fitted with new cockpit technology. Photo: UPS

The aircraft may have been designed back in the 1980s, but UPS has shown off its first A300’s very modern facelift. The cargo airline tweeted a stunning new picture of an A300-600 with “new LCD displays, flight management system, FANS technology, weather radar and more.” This is the first time an upgrade like this has taken place on an A300.

When the airline announced its partnership with Honeywell and Airbus back in 2017, the aim was to future-proof the aircraft until around 2035. Although the aircraft themselves are getting on a bit with an average of 18.2 years, the technology is not up to date at all. UPS explained that the aircraft’s flight management system could not store all US airports and the mismatch between analog and digital technology was an unnecessary strain for pilots.

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Cockpit upgrades

The equipment for the upgrade was provided by US aviation specialist Honeywell with the installation certified by Airbus. The entire UPS A300 fleet is set to be upgraded in just two years, finishing by 2022. Work only started last year, and so far, it seems to be on track.

Speaking to FlightGlobal back in 2017, a UPS engineer said the new cockpits have similar capabilities to a Boeing 787 or an Airbus A350. The new design features Honeywell’s Primus Epic avionics suite and other components including brand new LCD displays, a next-generation flight management system, new computers, three-dimensional radar, upgraded GPS and weather warning systems, and a new communications system.

Why upgrade?

When UPS first announced its plans to upgrade, it really divided public opinion. Some could not understand why it would pay to upgrade the cockpit when it could opt for newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft and just phase out the aging A300s. However, UPS’s fleet of A300 was purchased new, straight from the line so are still relatively young for freighters. Freighters that have been converted from old passenger planes tend to have higher cycles due to heavy use.

UPS A300 cargo
UPS’s A300s have an average age of 18 years, but as cargo aircraft, they are used less frequently than most passenger planes. Photo: UPS

Rather than spending money on a new fleet, UPS is simply giving their existing fleet a small upgrade to bring them in line with newer models. Because of its medium size, reliability, range, and widebody fuselage, the A300 has been a popular freight aircraft around the world. With upgrades like this, it won’t be a surprise if the A300s last another decade at least. UPS confirmed that this upgrade should extend the life of the aircraft by around 20 years.

A UPS future

It isn’t only UPS aircraft getting a lift. The cargo company announced last month it is also updating its road vehicles with new electric trucks. UPS is also testing a fleet of driverless vehicles to help speed up delivery times in urban areas as well as transporting packages from storage to packing facilities and stores. In a statement, the company said it was “exploring automated and autonomous technologies to enhance network operation.”

Perhaps in the future, UPS will upgrade the cockpit of its planes with technology that no longer requires a pilot. However, this might be a little way off.

What do you think of UPS’ cockpit upgrade? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.