Airbus, the European aircraft manufacturer, EFW (Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmbH) the EADS' freighter conversion centre of expertise based in Dresden (Germany), MIG and Irkut, leading Russian aircraft manufacturers, signed a preliminary co-operation agreement for a civil freighter aircraft conversion business.

This co-operation will focus on the conversion of Single Aisle passenger aircraft into freighter aircraft. The conversion activities will include design, conversion kit production, conversion and maintenance. Initially, A320 and A321 Single Aisle aircraft will be converted. The aircraft conversion will be done in Russia and is planned to begin in 2011.

The Letter Of Intent (LOI) was signed by Alexey Fedorov, General Director and Chief Designer of MIG, Oleg Demchenko, President of Irkut, Gustav Humbert Airbus President and CEO, and EFW President and CEO, Horst Emker at the ILA Airshow in Berlin.

"Through this new agreement, the co-operation between Airbus and Russian aerospace industry, which has already been highly successful, will move to a completely new level based upon long term partnership," said Airbus President and CEO Gustav Humbert.

The LOI is a new step which complements and goes far beyond the agreement signed in July 2001 between EADS, Airbus' major shareholder and Rosaviakosmos. The agreement defined an extensive co-operation programme with the Russian aviation industry. Initially, Airbus had planned to offer Russian companies contracts worth US$800 million over ten years. However, due to the success of the programme, Airbus now plans to place over US$900 million of contracts with Russian companies. Airbus' activities with Russia cover a wide range of research and technology projects, design work, materials procurement and component manufacturing, as well as extensive co-operation in the field of aircraft certification.

Airbus has been working with Russian and CIS airlines since 1991. In that year, the twin-engined widebody A310 became the first western-built aircraft to receive a Type Certificate from the Interstate Aviation Committee. Currently, nine airlines from Russia and CIS operate a total of 40 Airbus aircraft.

In Moscow, Airbus has a regional office and a technical staff who provide on-the-spot support for airlines. The Airbus engineering centre in Russia, ECAR, the Airbus and Kaskol Group's joint-venture, has operated in Moscow since spring 2003, and currently employs 150 Russian engineers.

Airbus is an EADS joint company with BAE Systems.