Earlier this month, Airbus' freighter version of its A330, the A330-200F, completed its 4-h maiden flight in Toulouse, marking the start of a 180-h flight-test and certification campaign ahead of schedule. Initial delivery is anticipated in the summer of 2010 for launch operator Etihad Crystal Cargo.
With 67 firm orders from nine customers, Airbus says the A330-200F will fly 20% farther and have a higher maximum payload with 13% lower unit costs compared with its closest competitor.
And just in time, according to the optimistic John Leahy, Airbus' Chief Operating Officer. "We are at the eve of a market recovery, and now is the time for airlines to prepare for future freight growth,” he said after the flight.
When it starts, Airbus expects that growth to be substantial, over 5% annually, forecasting the need for over 3400 freighters that fall into the 60-t-plus category over the next 20 years, which will include around 1600 midsized freighters such as the A330-200F.
Compared with the A330 passenger plane on which it is based, the -200F has an increased maximum-zero-fuel weight of 8 t to allow for high-density cargo configuration transportation of 10 lb/ft3. The aircraft also features a reinforced, 18.5-ft diameter fuselage that includes a strengthened floor with a specially designed floor-grid for higher running loads.
The final design resulted in a greater payload than initially anticipated, with the -200F offering two operational configurations. It can carry nonstop more than 64 t over 4000 nmi, or over 69 t up to 3200 nmi, allowing operators to open up or extend current cargo routes. An optimized fuselage cross section offers 30% more volume than any freighter in its class, says Airbus, allowing for a wide variety of pallet and container sizes for maximum interlining capability.
The -200F will be powered either by Pratt & Whitney PW4000 or Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines with thrusts ranging from 303 to 316 kN. It will be produced on the same Toulouse final assembly line as the A330/A340 aircraft and will be equipped with the same fly-by-wire technology that is used in other Airbus jetliners.