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Airbus may launch freighter version of A330-200 soon

 - December 6, 2006, 11:22 AM

Airbus expects to launch its long-delayed  freighter version of the A330 by mid-year. An “Authority To Offer” for the A330-200F is expected next month, officials told Aviation International News last week.

The European manufacturer has not previously offered a long-haul, mid-size cargo aircraft, while Boeing has been winning orders for new-build or converted 767s, 777s and MD-11s. Now, though, Airbus appears to be eyeing one of the four big express carriers as a launch customer for new-build A330Fs. A passenger-to-cargo conversion program for older A330s could follow later.

The A330F would haul a 65-ton payload for 4,000 nm, and would be an ideal replacement for aging DC-8-73Fs and DC-10-30Fs, according to Airbus. It would also offer greater payload/range and better interlining capability than the 767-300 freighter.

The A330F would feature the same main deck cargo door, floor and other equipment as the A300F4-600R freighter that is still in production (for UPS). But with in-house resources fully committed to the A350 and A400M programs, Airbus is outsourcing the stress analysis and engineering design of the A330F.

The A330 freighter launch also will help Airbus and Northrop Grumman in their quest to secure a large order for KC-330 tankers from the U.S. Air Force. The Pentagon is thought likely to specify a main-deck cargo-carrying capability as it pursues a KC-135 replacement. Although the UK and Australia are committed to tanker versions of the A330, they do not require the big cargo door.