Philippine low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific (CEB) takes delivery of the first of two ATR 72-500 freighters it has on order, converted from Cebu Pacific’s passenger fleet to cargo use. The second ATR 72-500 P2F is expected to be delivered in late-2019.
The freighter, the first of its type in the Philippines, gives CEB the ability to bring cargo in and out of destinations served by airports with short runways where only turboprops can take off and land.
Significantly, the ATR 72-500 is equipped with a Large Cargo Door allowing a load of up to seven LD3 unit load devices (ULDs), or five PBJ pallets. The freighter has capacity to carry a maximum payload of eight tonnes.
Cebu Pacific’s move into dedicated freighter operations is as significant as it is logical for the Manila-based carrier, being as it is the largest domestic air cargo carrier.
With an extensive domestic network covering island nation, CEB carries cargo in the limited bellyhold of its largely A320 family aircraft (43 in service with orders for 48 more).
The added freighters will give it flexibility it didn’t have before and conveniently, the ability to carry LD3s means easy transfer to its A330 aircraft for international cargo shipments. The A330s (eight A330-300s in the fleet with orders for 16 A330-900neos which will replace the -300s from 2021) are operated regionally within Southeast and East Asia and also as far as Dubai and Australia.
In 2018 Cebu Pacific and CebGo combined, uplifted 150,220 tonnes of cargo and mail compared to the second largest cargo carrier, Philippine Airlines (PAL) and its low cost subsidiary PAL Express which together uplifted 140,447 tonnes. With its larger long haul fleet, including B777s and A350s, PAL naturally carries larger volumes – a total of 123,639 tonnes in 2018 –than CEB on international routings (statistics were not immediately available for its international cargo and mail volumes).
The conversion was performed at the Sabena Technics DNR S.A.S. facility in Dinard, France. A second company was also involved in the project – Swiss company IPR Conversions, which has supplemental type certificates for ATR passenger-to-freighter conversions.
To make major modifications to an aircraft, such as adding a large cargo door, one of the companies must either be the type certificate holder, or have a supplemental type certificate.
The freighter will be operated by Cebu Pacific subsidiary Cebgo which operates the carrier’s pure turboprop ATR fleet, consisting of six ATR 72-500s and 13 ATR 72-600 passenger aircraft.
Cebgo is the successor company to SEAIR, Inc., which previously operated as South East Asian Airlines and then Tigerair Philippines. It is now owned by JG Summit, the parent company of Cebu Pacific which operates the airline.
Cebu Pacific is currently headed by Lance Gokongwei, presumptive heir of John Gokongwei, the chairman emeritus of JG Summit and tied with Manuel Villar as the Philippines’ richest individual with a net worth of USD 5.1 billion.