Airbus A330 freighter makes maiden flight

 - November 14, 2009, 12:44 AM

Airbus’s new A330-200F freighter flew for the first time early this month, officially marking the start of a 180-hour flight-test and certification campaign with a four-hour test mission over Toulouse, France.

This milestone flight conforms to a schedule that calls for type certification in March and first delivery of the first production example to launch operator, Etihad Crystal Cargo, next summer.

According to Airbus, the A330-200F will offer freight customers greater range and a higher maximum payload at a lower unit cost compared with its closest competitor. The type has so far attracted firm orders for 67 airplanes from nine customers. Most recently, a 10th potential customer–Turkish Airlines–signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) covering two A330-200Fs. Airbus also claims to have attracted serious interest from other potential customers during ongoing campaigns still in progress.

“The efficient A330-200F is very well adapted to today’s market dynamics of rising fuel prices and increased pressure on yields,” said Airbus COO for customers John Leahy. “The A330-200F is the right aircraft at the right time. We are at the eve of a market recovery, and now is the time for airlines to prepare for future freight growth.”

Airbus predicts a need for more than 3,400 freighters over the next 20 years to cover a projected 5.2-percent annual rate of growth. Its forecast includes a demand for some 1,600 midsize freighters, including the A330-200F.

More Flexibility
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 offers the interior flexibility to carry a variety of pallet and container sizes for maximum interlining capability. According to Airbus, it offers 30 percent more volume than any freighter in its class.

Compared with the passenger version of the A330-200, the 200F’s eight metric tons of increased maximum-zero-fuel weight allows for high-density cargo configuration transportation of 10 pounds per cubic foot.

The aircraft also features a reinforced fuselage plus a new strengthened floor with a specially designed floor-grid for higher running loads.