Airbus A330-200 freighter takes to the skies


The new dedicated freighter variant of the Airbus A330 family has taken to the skies during a four hour maiden flight over Toulouse.

This milestone Friday marked the start of a 180 hour flight-test and certification campaign, and paves the way for first delivery of the type to launch operator, Etihad Crystal Cargo, in the summer of 2010.

The new A330-200F will offer freight customers greater range and a higher maximum payload with much lower unit costs compared with its closest competitor, Airbus said in a news release to mark the occasion.

The aircraft has already gained 67 firm orders with nine customers.

In addition to these orders, the aircraft has been selected by a tenth customer – Turkish Airlines – following the recent signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for two A330-200Fs.

Furthermore, there are other ongoing campaigns in progress where airlines are showing serious interest in the aircraft.

Airbus Chief Operating Officer – Customers, John Leahy said the “efficient A330-200F is very well adapted to today’s market dynamics of rising fuel prices and increased pressure on yields.”

He adds: “The A330-200F is the right aircraft at the right time. We are at the eve of a market recovery, and now is the time for airlines to prepare for future freight growth.”

Airbus sees the need for over 3400 freighters in the next 20 years to cater for a 5.2% average annual growth rate. In turn, this will require around 1600 mid-sized freighters, of which the A330-200F will play an important role.

With a greater payload than initially anticipated, the A330-200F offers two operational configurations depending on the planned mission.

The aircraft can carry more than 64 metric tonnes over 4000 nautical miles / 7400km, or more than 69 metric tonnes up to 3200 nautical miles / 5930km – non-stop.

These range and payload capabilities will enable operators to grow their business by opening up or extending cargo routes they currently operate. Thanks to an optimized fuselage cross-section, it has the interior flexibility to carry a wide variety of pallet and container sizes for maximum interlining capability, offering 30 per cent more volume than any freighter in its class.

Compared with the highly successful passenger A330-200, this new purpose-designed Freighter version has an increased maximum-zero-fuel weight (MZFW) of eight tonnes to allow for high-density cargo configuration transportation of 10lb/ft3.

In addition, the aircraft features a reinforced fuselage plus new strengthened floor with a specially designed floor-grid for higher running loads.

The A330-200F is based on the proven, highly successful and technologically-advanced A330 platform, for which Airbus has received over 1,000 orders, and to date around 625 aircraft are in operational service.

Meanwhile, Airbus Military’s first A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) has successfully performed its first night refuelling transferring fuel from to a Portuguese Air Force F-16.

“After the successful contacts performed in July between the A310 Boom and the F16, Airbus Military advanced aerial refuelling boom system (ARBS), once again, has demonstrated its superior night time operational capabilities during a multi-contact mission with two F-16 fighter aircraft performed the night of November 4, the company said in a statement.

“During the flight test a total of four contacts were performed during night conditions and successfully offloaded fuel before returning safely.

“This validation confirmed the performance of the boom’s state-of-the-art enhanced vision system — which features laser infrared lighting and high-definition digital stereoscopic viewing — and was carried out as part of the final flight test phase for the … MRTT,” the media release added.

To date, the Airbus Military boom system installed in the A330 MRTT aircraft has performed more than 70 contacts transferring more than 19 metric tons of fuel.

In addition, Airbus Military has finalised all flight tests required to complete the civil certification for the A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport, with the aim to obtain the EASA approval for a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC).

The Royal Australian Air Force A330 MRTT is outfitted with a state-of-the-art Air Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) with fly-by-wire controls, plus two latest generation under-wing hose and drogue pods.

In addition, the aircraft will carry an advanced military mission system comprising the latest communications, navigation and identification equipment, (along with a Link 16 network system that provides real-time airborne connectivity).

The MRTT has a 111 tonnes/ 242 120 lb basic fuel capacity which allows Air-to-Air Refuelling missions without any additional fuel tanks The aircraft is available with a choice of proven air refuelling systems including an advanced aerial refuelling boom system, and/or hose and drogue wing, pods and/or fuselage refuelling unit.

Thanks to its wide-body fuselage the A330 MRTT can also be used as a pure transport aircraft able to carry up to 380 passengers or a payload of up to 45 tonnes/99 000 lb.

It can also easily be converted to accommodate up to 130 stretchers for Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC).