Farnborough kicked off yesterday with the long-suspected announcement from Airbus of the official launch of the Airbus A330neo. With planned deliveries in the fourth quarter of 2017, this re-engined edition of Airbus's 20-year old wide-body airliner is set to stir competition against Boeing's more modern yet more expensive 787.
The A330neo (new engine option) is set to deliver a reduction of 14% in comparison to the current aircraft putting it in line with the more technically advanced aircraft such as the company's own A350.
Airbus is expected to announce up to 100 launch orders over the week at Farnborough Airshow after months of talks with airlines such as Delta, Air Asia X and Lufthansa, as well as lessors such as CIT and launch customer Air Lease Corporation (ALC), who became the first customer to sign up to 25 of the new aircraft.
ALC president and Chief Operation Officer John Plueger said "There is a compelling price difference between the A330neo and any other wide body aircraft". And ALC Chairman Steve Udvar-Hazy does not believe that Boeing can close the pricing gap between the A330neo and it's main competitor, the Boeing 787-8 and -9.
The A330neo will of course have significant consequences on the company's A350 project, which recently suffered a significant blow with a major cancellation from Emirates. With the announcement of the A330neo the manufacturer looks set to drop development the smaller A350-800, as hinted by Airbus President and CEO Fabrice Bregier, "I believe all of our customers will either convert to the A350-900 or the A330neo. The A330neo is the more efficient solution (compared to the A350-800)".
The new A330 family will be made up of the A330-800neo, replacing the A330-200 and the A330-900neo, replacing the A330-300. The current engine consideration is the Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, based on the Trent TEN with modifications to provide bleed air systems for the aircraft. This, combined with redesigned winglets, an increased wing span and new engine pylons would provide up to 400nm maximum range over the original aircraft, which will be able to cover over 90% of the missions for this aircraft type, according to Airbus. Other changes will be an upgraded flight deck and avionics to bring the aircraft back into line with the manufacturers latest offerings.
With these modifications, Airbus claims the A330-800neo will provide the same fuel burn per seat than the more expensive Boeing 787-8, with the same results repeated in the A330-900neo, competing with Boeing's 787-9.
Airbus is confident that it will be able to keep up the A330 production rates through the re-design but will need a "coupe of hundred orders" for the current version to do so. Airbus predicts the A330neo will be introduced by the end of 2017, but the current engine option will be produced through to 2019 ensuring continued income from the manufacturers only profitable wide body aircraft.