Write this date – 19th October 2017 - down in your important dates – Aviation edition – book. I know you have one! If not then go buy one first and then finish reading this article.
This Thursday, the brand new Airbus A330neo (A330-900 variant) (neo = new engine option) took off to the skies for the first time. I know this is Airbus Week – first they make a deal with Bombardier that will go down in the history books and then a #First Flight!
The A330-900’s maiden flight was scheduled for earlier this year but the test programme was delayed due to the late deliveries of the new Rolls Royce Trent 7000 engines made for these aircrafts. The launch customer of this aircraft being TAP Portugal who were expecting the delivery of their shiny new planes before the end of Q4 2017, are now set for delivery in mid-2018.
Airbus hopes that the A330neo’s refreshed design with more efficient engines will help it defend its position in the lucrative 250-300 seat market, which is just under the 300+ capacity of the Airbus A350-900 or A350XWB (XWB = eXtra Wide Body) – the newest member of the Airbus Family. These aircrafts are set to compete with Boeing’s new and highly fuel efficient and comfortable Dreamliner (B787 Family).
While the new A330neo is more efficient with better payload and thanks to the new AIRSPACE cabin introduced by Airbus, which is definitely more comfortable for passengers – is there a point for this aircraft? The A350 family had a very similar plane, the A350-800, which, didn’t get many orders and most airlines changed their orders from this to A350XWBs.
So did Airbus just go ahead with this programme to revive one its most popular planes to compete with Boeing or to replace for the failed A350-800? As I see it – both.
The A330 family is Airbus’s most successful wide-body plane with over 1,200 deliveries including freight versions (A330-200F). Currently the largest operator of the A330 family is Turkish airlines with 64 aircrafts including freighters as of 30th September 2017. Reviving it by updating the design slightly, with quiet and more efficient engines, improved cabin comfort and better payload and efficiencies will make up to date for today’s aircrafts. It can also be able to compete successfully with Boeing’s Dreamliner. It also targets airlines who still operate the Boeing B757.
The B757 is mostly operated by the airlines in America – American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines. While Boeing pulled the plug for this aircraft in 2004; in 2007 - airlines, like the ones mentioned above, started using this aircraft for something which it was not intended for….. Trans-Atlantic routes. Flying long haul routes between cities not very high demand is a new concept and that’s where the B757 fits perfectly in, with a capacity of 200-300.
However these planes are now reaching their ‘expiry date’. The current and only replacement for this aircraft is Airbus’s A321neolr (A320 family – A321 new engine option – long range) – but this is just temporary – as these aircrafts are not ideal to provide the service for long haul routes. This is where I think the A330neo fits in beautifully. The A330neo is in the same capacity bracket as the B757 but overall better – and you should know why – I have been blabbering about how it has improved for the whole time now! Point to note: B757 was launched many years before the original A330 (12 years to be precise) – it is older and definitely needs an upgrade!
So let’s hope Airbus can complete its testing and certification programme for the A330neo soon and be ready to deliver by summer 2018. They are going to get a nose up (You see what I did there? I know I should stop…) in the mid-range long distance market of aircrafts which currently Boeing has no new replacement. What did you say??? Of course I know of the B797 – Boeing’s answer to B757 replacement; excuse me have we met – I do have a slight plane fetish… but… we don’t know much about it apart from that it will fill this gap in aircrafts. Not useful – while Boeing maybe developing this aircraft, it has a long time before they will be able to get the first one delivered; while Airbus already has 200+ confirmed orders for the A330neo. Good luck to Airbus!
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