With increased commercial activity and new programme milestones, Airbus’ A330 jetliner continues to underscore its popularity within the civil aviation sector – while its freighter and tanker derivatives demonstrate their capabilities for cargo and aerial refuelling applications around the world.
The twin-engine A330 is one of the most extensively-used widebody aircraft in service today, with more than 1,000 bookings for its various versions to date. As further evidence of its strong commercial appeal, current A330 order totals have almost returned to levels achieved before the global economic downturn of recent years.
According to the head of A330/A340 marketing Crawford Hamilton, the A330 has never experienced such a period of sustained high production and consistent demand. “[There] is a simple reason for this continued success: the best economics of its generation,” he said. “The aircraft is seen as a long-term investment by airlines and investors.”
Last year, a total of 87 A330-200s, A330-300s and A330-200F freighter versions were received by customers around the world, and the pace is continuing in 2011 with 22 deliveries as of March 31. Airbus plans to raise the A330 Family’s production rate to ten aircraft per month beginning in the second quarter of 2013, representing a two-aircraft increase from current levels.
Building on this momentum, the A330’s position as one of the most efficient jetliners in commercial aviation is being further improved by Airbus, with an A330-200 passenger version now certified for a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 238 tonnes – translating to an extra 3.4 tonnes of payload capacity or a range enhancement of 330 miles. Airbus also is launching an A330-300 with a 235-tonne MTOW that is due for certification by the end of 2011.
In addition, the A330 is the initial long-haul aircraft certified for Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards (ETOPS) of up to 240 minutes, which further augments its routing opportunities.
“We are continually improving the systems, keeping the cockpit and cabin state-of-the-art,” explained A330/A340 product policy manager Alexandre Podda. “The A330 was the first long-range aircraft to allow passengers and airlines to use mobile phones on board, and an Electronic Flight Bag system for pilots is available – eliminating the need for paper charts and manuals.”
Deliveries of the new civilian A330-200F version began last summer, with this modern freighter aircraft now in the inventories of Etihad Airways (for its Etihad Crystal Cargo air freight operation), Hong Kong Airlines and Turkish Airlines.
The A330-based Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) achieved its civil and military certification in 2010, with deliveries currently pending for this new-generation aerial refuelling platform – which has been selected in international competitions by Australia, the U.K., Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.