A330neo

Image: Seth Miller

APEX Insight: The A330neo, which will fly exclusively with the Airspace by Airbus cabin interior, took flight for the first time today in Toulouse, France, and APEX Media was on-site. TAP Air Portugal is set to receive the first A330neo in mid-2018.

Airbus brought optimism to an overcast day in Toulouse, France, as the A330neo took flight for the first time, slightly ahead of schedule. The first flight kicks off a 1,100 flight hour certification program for the new type. The latest generation of the company’s twin-aisle, midsized mainstay, includes improvements over the original A330 platform, promising 10-15% lower costs per seat-mile to airline operators.

While “neo” indicates new engine option, this isn’t the only upgated feature. As Odile Jubécourt, head of the A330neo program at Airbus, explains, “The A330neo is a new, overall integrated aircraft. New nacelle, new pylon, new wing and sharklet and a new cabin.” These new features contribute to improved aerodynamics and deliver a quieter cabin for passengers.

Image via Airbus

Passengers will also benefit from the A330neo flying only with the Airspace by Airbus cabin interior. Airspace includes a new outer/lateral overhead bin design, which affords passengers more carry-on stowage and improves aircraft turnaround times. Other improvements include a boarding area with LED lighting and better airline branding opportunities.

The A330neo features the company’s fourth-generation IFE electronics, powering larger and brighter screens while reducing intrusion into passenger foot space. While a wifi-enabled electronic flight bag improves the crew experience, the connectivity enhancements extend to passengers as well. The A330neo continues Airbus’s commitment to in-flight connectivity, with options for L-band/SwiftBroadband, Ku-band and Ka-band solutions from multiple vendors.

Image via Airbus

The test program for the A330neo will be completed by three dedicated aircraft. MSN1795 took flight today, with the full test kit installed. The second A330-900 test plane (MSN1813) will begin operations next month, with the -800 model (MSN1888) following in 2018. These three aircraft will complete the full battery of instrumentation tests, including avionics and satcom systems, and flight management systems from multiple vendors. The first production aircraft (MSN1819), which will eventually be delivered to TAP Air Portugal, will also participate in the test program for proving of the interior systems with air handling tests and the full Airspace interior.

The launch of the A330neo test program comes 25 years after the initial A330 test flights began. With the new program live, expectations are that the A330 family will continue to operate for decades to come.

Airbus currently holds a backlog of 212 A330neo aircraft for 12 customers. Only six orders of the -800 variant type are on the books, destined for Hawaiian Airlines. Crawford Hamilton, head of Twin Aisle Marketing at Airbus, is not fazed by the small pending order book for the smaller type, “We know there is a big market for the A330-800 style aircraft because we’ve sold shedloads of them in the past. But it is a young fleet. That market in terms of replacement is yet to come. We know there’s going to be a wave of replacements coming soon. We’re very confident there.”