Singapore Air Show

A330 Freighter makes hot debut after cold soak

 - January 31, 2010, 10:38 PM

Here in Singapore Airbus hosted the first public presentation of the A330-200F Freighter, less than a week after the Pratt & Whitney PW4000-powered cargo hauler finished cold-soak testing in the decidedly less sultry environs of Iqaluit, Canada. Scheduled now to embark on hot-and-humid trials in Singapore this coming Saturday and Sunday, the first of two examples of the new freighter– MSN10004–withstood temperatures as low as -27-deg C during its recent trip north.

Flight test crew validated the climate control system, main deck cargo door and other modifications introduced on the dedicated cargo version of the A330-200 jetliner. With conclusion of hot-weather static testing here on the Changi Exhibition Center ramp on Sunday, Airbus aims to maintain a schedule that calls for certification by the middle of next month and delivery to launch customer Etihad Crystal Cargo this summer.

Hosting the presentation and demonstration of the airplane’s cargo door operation here yesterday, Airbus head of freighter marketing Didier Lenormand explained that the Asia-Pacific market ranks as one of the type’s most important because of its flexibility and unique size. “This is a long-haul export market, where high-value, capital intensive goods tend to be traded quickly,” noted Lenormand. “Shippers here prefer daily flights rather than every three days with a 747, for example.”

The A330-200F has so far drawn firm orders for eight examples in the Asia-Pacific region, said Lenormand, noting that a single airplane would go to Hong Kong Airlines this year. All told, Airbus has collected firm orders for 64 airplanes from seven customers. By late last year it had drawn at least 67, but some shifting of orders to the passenger version by leasing companies reduced the total order count, said Lenormand, who declined to name the lessors involved.

Apart from its ability to replace older mid-size aircraft, the range of the A330-200F will offer airlines the chance to raise service levels in low-frequency, long-haul markets now served with often too-large jumbo jets.

Offering a greater payload than initially anticipated, the A330-200F allows for two operational configurations depending on its mission. The aircraft can carry more than 64 metric tons over 4,000 nm or more than 69 metric tons up to 3,200 nm nonstop. Its “optimized” fuselage cross section, featuring a main-deck cargo loading system that can accommodate both pallets and containers, offers maximum interior flexibility and interlining capability. According to Airbus, it offers 30 percent more volume than any freighter in its class.

Compared with the A330-200 passenger version, the 200F’s increased maximum-zero-fuel weight by eight metric tons allows for high-density cargo configuration transportation of 10 pounds per cubic foot. The aircraft also features a reinforced fuselage and a new strengthened floor with a specially designed floor-grid for higher running loads.

One of the airplane’s most distinguishing characteristics lies with the blister faring that accommodates an extended nosewheel leg. Lenormand explained that the passenger version of the airplane stands at a nose-down attitude; to ensure that the A330-200F sits level on the ramp, Airbus designers needed to lower the rotation point of the front landing gear by 40 centimeters. The faring covers the nosewheels when retracted.

Prior to its stint in Canada, the airplane on static display here successfully validated handling qualities and performance and completed tests related to the autopilot and autoland systems. It flew for the first time last November and has logged 124 hours.

The second A330-200F–MSN1032– flew for the first time on January 20. Powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines, MSN1032 contributed 30 of the some 160 total flight hours Airbus expects certification will require.

Airbus predicts a need for more than 3,400 freighters over the next 20 years to cover a projected 5.2-percent annual growth rate. This outlook sees a demand for 1,600 midsize freighters, including the -200F.