Airbus cools on near-term enhancements for A330

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Airbus appears uncertain over the near-term prospects for radical enhancements to the A330, following the surprise indication earlier this year that modifications were being considered.

Chief operating officer for customers John Leahy had previously stated that Airbus was looking at a take-off weight rise to 240t and the possible inclusion of sharklet wing-tips on the type.

During an event in Toulouse on 23 May, Leahy said the airframer had received a "lot of requests" for an enhanced version and was "looking at the business case".

He says that an upgraded version could extend the type's range by around 400nm. "I'd like to have something to say by the Farnborough air show," he says.

Airbus had talked with all three engine manufacturers for the A330 regarding improvements in performance, although Leahy stresses that these would be in the "one or two percent" category and would not involve a new engine.

But executive vice-president for programmes Tom Williams has given a cooler reception to the potential for significant changes, stating: "I'd certainly need to be convinced."

He points out that the A330 already has substantial winglets, and questions whether sharklets would provide enough economic benefits - particularly if extensive reinforcement was required.

Williams says, however, that the load-alleviation function is "not fully optimised", and that this might be exploited for performance improvement.

"We have to be careful," he adds. "We have a lot of good ideas. But which should take priority?"