The A330neo programme is set for another major landmark after Airbus tentatively announced the type’s first flight will take place in Toulouse on October 19. The maiden sortie of the Rolls-Royce Trent 7000-powered example, F-WTTN (c/n 1795) – one of three airframes earmarked for flight tests and certification – remains weather-dependent. It will, however, deliver a much-needed boost for a programme that has slipped several months oweing in part to delays in engine development. Entry into service with launch customer TAP Portugal had originally been slated for later this year.
Elsewhere, the European aerospace giant confirmed construction is now underway on the smaller variant of the A330neo, the A330-800. Initial work has included a new increased-span wings, built at Broughton, North Wales, that are now being equipped in Bremen, Germany, and new composite Sharklets manufactured by Korean Air Aerospace Division.
Fuselage sections are under construction in Hamburg and the centre wing box is being assembled in Nantes, France.
Airbus says the production of -800 components will continue to increase, leading to the start of final assembly by the end of the year. The aircraft’s maiden flight will take place during 2018.
The A330neo builds on the success of the A330 widebody programme, with over 1,300 aircraft currently in service with 117 customers worldwide. Airbus says the A330-800 will bring improved economics with a predicted 14% less fuel burn per seat compared to the current generation aircraft, greater passenger comfort with the all new Airspace cabin as well as unprecedented range in the 250-seat aircraft market. Together with the larger 300-seat -900, both aircraft share a 99% commonality, which the manufacturer says gives operators a greater flexibility to use both variants on their networks.