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This week's news that Singapore Technologies Aerospace (ST Aero) is going to work with Airbus to develop the much-anticipated A330 passenger to freighter conversion, is notable on a number of levels.First of all, the cargo market took a beating in 2011, so the fact that Airbus is moving ahead with the conversion could be a sign that the aircraft maker is bullish longer term on the cargo market.Secondly, one of the keys to a successful conversion program is sufficient feedstock at the right price. Given the complexity of developing and certifying a widebody P2F program, the powers that be in Toulouse and Singapore must be betting that the residual value of passenger carrying A330s is going to come down far enough to make the P2F program attractive to potential customers. Of course, it also helps that Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker is said to be interested in the program.Finally, and perhaps most significantly, is what the Airbus-ST Aero pairing could mean for Boeing. ST Aero has been working with Boeing on conversions for years, if not decades. It is one of the most experienced conversion houses in the industry, and much of that experience has been gained on Boeing aircraft, primarily 757s and 767s, but also MD-11s.Given that history together, it is reasonable to assume that ST Aero would be at or near the top of Boeing's list of partners when it comes time to developing a 777 conversion program. This week's announcement may have changed that. It's hard to imagine that ST Aero would have the capacity, engineering or otherwise, to handle both programs, even if some of the Airbus conversion work is done at the EADS EFW facility in Germany. Of course, Boeing hasn't announced a 777 conversion program yet, but it will come eventually. It will be interesting to see who Boeing partners with, if anyone.
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