Airbus has confirmed it has begun studies aimed at raising the A330-300’s maximum takeoff weight (mtow) by five metric tons, from 235 tons (518,081 pounds) to 240 tons (529,104 pounds), in a bid to increase the twinjet’s range and better compete with the Boeing 787 and 777. The higher-gross-weight A330-300 would aid Airbus’s efforts to plug the gap left by the withdrawal of the now out-of-production A340 and the delay of the A350 XWB’s entry into service until the first half of 2014.
At 235 tons, the A330-300 can carry 300 passengers 5,450 nm. Studies suggest that range could increase by 400 nm with the higher mtow because it could carry more fuel. The 777-200ER can carry 301 passengers more than 7,725 nm. Still in development, the 787-9 holds 250 to 290 passenger seats and its range spans beyond 8,000 nm.
Structural modifications could involve “downgauging” some parts to make the airframe lighter, such as those built for commonality with the A340 but only useful for the quad.
With the increase in the A330-300’s mtow, “any decision on whether to proceed will happen in the second half of 2012,” an Airbus spokesman told AIN. “Sharklets” (Airbus’s designation for a new winglet design) could serve as part of the equation. On the smaller A320, Airbus expects Sharklets to reduce fuel burn by at least 3.5 percent over long sectors, although the narrowbody now uses wingtip fences while the A330 already uses winglets.
According to French daily La Tribune, Airbus has surveyed several airlines on the A330-300 improvement ideas. Since program launch, Airbus has received orders for 554 A330-300s and 382 have entered service.