Airbus eases back planned A330 freighter build rate

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Airbus is cooling its intended rate of production for the A330-200 freighter in response to the downturn in the cargo market.

While the airframer had "planned to go to two freighters per month", said executive-vice-president of programmes Tom Williams during a briefing in Hamburg, it expects to hold at one per month for 2010-11.

Final assembly of the A330-200F is set to begin next month, with first flight scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year. Williams says he is "pretty comfortable" with this timetable.

Airbus has already taken delivery of the nose subassemblies from the Aerolia manufacturing division in France.

In the last few days the company has also transported, by A300-600ST airlifter, the 11.6m (38ft) initial forward fuselage section from Hamburg to St Nazaire.

This forward section includes the main-deck cargo door, measuring 3.58m by 2.57m, the size of those previously used on A300/310 freighters.

Once mated with the cockpit the completed section will be shipped to Toulouse for final assembly. Airbus claims it has met its targets for weight and production schedule for the freighter.