Airbus aims to fill freighter void with A330 derivative

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Manufacturer poised to ‘quickly’ develop new cargo model as A300/A310 line is axed

Airbus aims to fill the hole left by the demise of the Airbus A300-600F by “quickly” developing a cargo version of the A330.

Airbus announced last week that it will close the A300/A310 production line in Toulouse in July next year – the first time that the European manufacturer has phased out one of its models. The decision follows diminishing demand for the aircraft and Airbus’s desire to focus attention and resources on newer types.

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All recent production on the A300/A310 line has been of the all-cargo A300-600F. The closure leaves Airbus with no new-build freighter models in its product line. However, speaking last week at the annual results briefing of Airbus’s 80% shareholder EADS in Paris, co-chief executive Noel Forgeard said that Airbus is likely to soon have a new freighter offering based on the A330 twinjet.

“We shall not be short of freighters. We shall very likely develop quickly an A330 freighter,” said Forgeard. He added that with plans to use the twinjet as a military tanker as well, “we will deliver a lot of A330s in the 10 years to come”.

Airbus has long had plans to develop an A330-200F, which when announced in 2001 could carry a payload of around 63t (139,000lb) over a range of 7,860km (4,250nm).

Airbus president and chief executive Gustav Humbert says the closure of the A300/A310 line “is in the best interests to optimise the use of resources at this time”.

The last A300/A310 (an A300-600F) will be delivered in July next year. Deliveries of the A300 began in 1974 and 561 aircraft will have been handed over by the time production ends. Airbus also delivered 255 A310s between 1983 and 1997 and holds a suspended order from Iraqi Airways for five A310s. It says that the status of this order “is a matter between the customer and us”. Assuming the aircraft are not built, Airbus will have assembled 816 A300/A310s over the 33-year life of the programme.

HELEN MASSY-BERESFORD / PARIS & MAX KINGSLEY-JONES / LONDON