A file image of Airbus A330-900 MSN1819. (Airbus)Airbus’s A330neo certification program has entered the home straight with the start of a world tour for route proving tests.
The aircraft that will fly to 15 cities across five continents while accumulating 150 flight test hours is MSN1819, which is the first A330-900 production aircraft and features the colours of launch customer TAP Portugal.
Tests in this final step of the aircraft certification phase include function and reliability tests such as ETOPS missions, landing at diversion airports and testing airport handling services, Airbus said on Monday (European time).
“The route proving tests form part of the last trials required for aircraft Type Certification scheduled for summer 2018,” Airbus said in a statement.
The flight tests will be conducted over three stages during June 18 to July 7, information from Airbus showed. One trip will head to North America and India, a second will focus on South America (and Miami), while a third covers Mauritius and Asia.
However, the A330neo is not scheduled to visit Australia, with Asian points such as Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok the closest it will come to the Oceania region.
Three A330 aircraft have been involved in the flight test program, which kicked off in October 2017.
Launched at the Farnborough Airshow in 2014, the A330neo features new Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines and a larger wing with ‘Sharklet’ wingtips to reduce fuel consumption.
The type is also the launch aircraft for Airbus’s “AirSpace by Airbus” cabin concept which features larger overhead compartments, wider seats and aisles and new lighting, a “welcome area” and removal of the inflight entertainment box taking up legroom under the seat in front.
There are two A330neo variants – the A330-800 is the replacement for the A330-200, while the A330-900 is the replacement for the larger A330-300.
There is 95 per cent commonality between the A330neo and current A330 variants.
The A330-200 has a typical range of 7,250nm when seating 247 passengers, according to the Airbus website, while the A330-800 will have a range of 7,500nm with 257 passengers in a three-class layout.
Meanwhile, the A330-300’s typical range is 6,350nm with a 277-passenger configuration, compared with 6,550nm for the A330-900 configured with 287 seats in three classes.
Launch customer TAP Portugal has 14 A330-900s on order.
Aircalin became the first (and still only) A330neo customer in Oceania in November 2016 when the New Caledonia-based airline put pen to paper for two A330-900s to replace its existing A330-200s.
Airbus has received 210 A330neo orders from 12 customers, as well as four orders for unidentified customers, according to its website.
However there are fresh doubts as to the viability of the A330-800 variant, after Hawaiian Airlines dropped plans to operate the type in March 2018. The airline was the only customer for the smaller A330neo.
Hawaiian, which is an existing A330-200 operator, cancelled its order for six A330-800neos and signed a non-binding letter of intent (LOI) for 10 787-9s, as well as purchase rights for a further 10 aircraft. The 787-9s will be powered by General Electric GEnx engines, with deliveries starting from 2021.
After an extensive evaluation of our future fleet needs, we're excited to announce that we've selected the @BoeingAirplanes 787 #Dreamliner to grow our medium to long-haul fleet. As part of the selection, we intend to purchase 10 787-9 jets. #AvGeek #Aviation pic.twitter.com/2Nqve7blLP
— Hawaiian Airlines (@HawaiianAir) March 6, 2018
In this part of the world, Fiji Airways and Qantas both operate the A330-200 and A330-300.
Meanwhile, Aircalin and Virgin Australia have just the smaller A330-200. A look at some of the Airbus A330 operators in Oceania.