MIAMI — Airbus today completed the maiden flight of its first 242-ton Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) variant of the A330. The aircraft landed at France’s Toulouse-Blagnac Airport following a 3-hour-and-30-minute flight.
The A330 242 ton MTOW is the platform for the future A330neo. With the enhancements, Airbus said the aircraft offers more capability at lower operating cost, with a range extended by up to 500 nautical miles and up to 2 percent reduced fuel consumption while also benefiting from operational reliability of above 99 percent. The 242 tonne MTOW is capable of flying missions up to 15 hours.
During the flight, a five-person crew checked the jetliner’s flight control system and validated its flight envelope. The increased maximum takeoff weight A330 results from Airbus’ focus on incremental innovation, and will further increase the cost-effectiveness and versatility for its popular twin-engine A330 product line. Operators will benefit from these jetliners’ additional range and fuel-burn reduction, resulting from a combination of improved engine performance and the aircraft’s enhanced aerodynamics.
The aircraft will become a part of Delta Air Lines’ fleet in early 2016. The Atlanta-based carrier is also the launch customer for the A330neo, with an order of 25 of the -900 version. The order was seen as a victory for Airbus over Boeing, with the latter unsuccessfully pitching its 787-9 Dreamliner and five new Boeing 777-200LRs as a stopgap offer until 787-9 delivery slots opened up.
The order concluded an RFP (request for proposal) issued by Delta last spring to replace parts of its Boeing 767 and Boeing 747 fleet, the latter of which will be retired by the end of 2017. Delta plans on flying the A330-900neos for mostly trans-Atlantic missions.
The 242-tonne A330-300 maximum takeoff weight variant launch customer is U.S.-based Delta Air Lines, which is scheduled to take delivery of its first aircraft in the second quarter of this year. The shorter-fuselage A330-200 in the 242-tonne configuration is planned to enter commercial service in early 2016.
During the 2014 Farnborough Air Show, Senior Business Analyst Vinay Bhaskara said that in the competition between the A330-900 and the 787, he projected that the A330-900neo will be the larger seller of the two variants, primarily due to the popularity of the A330-300 with Asian carriers.
The A330-900neo will achieve operating cost parity (excluding capital costs) with the 787-9 out to about 3,000 nautical miles, and will be extremely competitive out to 4,000 nautical miles. The range extension of 400 nautical miles is also a welcome development, as customers of the A330-300 often push that aircraft to the edge of its capabilities.
“We are skeptical of Airbus’ ability to deliver 14 percent per seat fuel burn improvement on the A330neo initially, though an expected boost in seating capacity should help,” wrote Bhaskara. “The 787 is sold out for several years, and the superior availability of the A330-900neo should make it a viable option.”
In addition to Delta Air Lines’ order of 25 -900neos, CIT has also placed an order of 15 of type. The jet will feature new Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 powerplants and aerodynamic improvements to provide unmatched operating economics.