ANALYSIS: The Airbus A330-300 aircraft report

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The Airbus A330-300 programme has now passed 20 years of operations and demand for the type continues to remain strong.

The first A330-300 was handed over to Air Inter in January 1994, which operated most of its fleet on French domestic routes.

Developed as a low-gross weight widebody for regional and medium-haul high density applications, the model has evolved over the years, technically and operationally.

The initial aircraft had a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 212t (467,500lb) to 217t, with a range profile between 3,900nm (7,215km) and 4,300nm. These represented roughly the first 75 deliveries between December 1993 and December 1998.

Incremental weight improvements have favoured the type and it has become a more popular choice on intra-regional and long-haul markets.

The A330 family was Airbus's first aircraft programme to be offered with the choice of three engines: the General Electric CF6-80E1s, the Pratt & Whitney PW4170-powered versions, and the Rolls-Royce Trent 772 series.

The Trent 700 series is the market leader, powering 309 units out of the 515-aircraft fleet. Pratt & Whitney equips 108 aircraft, while General Electric powers 98 units.

Market

At 26 May, there were 506 A330-300s in service with 59 operators, according to Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database, with another nine units in storage.

Ascend analyst Maximo Gainza says five stored A330-300s are lower gross weight variants and one aircraft is scheduled to transition to another operator.

Production rate is now at 10 aircraft per month, with most deliveries focused on the A330-300 high gross weight version.

Backlog totals 179 units with deliveries stretching through 2019.

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A total of 27 aircraft have been delivered since the beginning of this year, all in high gross weight versions. The Trent-powered aircraft represented 17 units or 63% of the deliveries. The CF6-powered version totalled six deliveries while the remaining four units were Pratt & Whitney aircraft.

Another 48 aircraft are planned for delivery this year. Again Rolls-Royce represent a large majority with 77% of deliveries or 37 units. Pratt & Whitney accounts for four deliveries and General Electric has seven units.

Another 61 units are scheduled for delivery in 2015, followed by 39 aircraft in 2016. However, the delivery pattern then takes a dive with 17 units booked for delivery in 2017, 10 in 2018 and four in 2019.

Of the 179 aircraft on backlog, Africa and the Middle East account for 12 deliveries. There are not any A330-300 deliveries currently planned for the Latin America and Caribbean regions but 15 units are heading to North American customers, mainly Delta Air Lines and operating lessor CIT Aerospace.

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The majority of future deliveries is concentrated in the Asia-Pacific region during the next five years. A total of 132 units will be delivered, according to Ascend.

Malaysia leads with 37 future deliveries ahead of China with 31 aircraft and Indonesia with 17 units.

Europe represents 20 future deliveries.

The largest lessor for the type is ILFC with a total of 30 units in service and on order.

AerCap has another 23 aircraft. Other lessors exposed to the A330-300 model are CDB Leasing with 17 units, Intrepid Aviation with 15 units and CIT Aerospace with 14 units.

Rolls-Royce represents 94 future deliveries or 52.5% of the market share through 2019. Pratt & Whitney’s and General Electric’s market share is estimated at 0.5% and 29.5%, respectively. An estimated 23 future aircraft deliveries are yet to have an engine selection.

The Trent-powered fleet totals 306 aircraft in service with 192 units equipped with the 513,676lb MTOW, Ascend shows. Cathay Pacific is the largest operator of the variant with 33 units followed by Singapore Airlines with 27 unit and Lufthansa with 19 units.

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Another 41 units equipped with the 772B-60 engine variant with the 513,676lb version are on backlog with 36 aircraft heading to Asia Pacific.

“On the retirement front, one former Aer Lingus and nine ex-Malaysia Airlines A330-300 (lower gross versions) have been confirmed for part-out - 10 of the 75 such aircraft delivered. All were under 20 years old,” says Gainza.

Since its first entry into service in 1994, the A330-300 model has evolved through incremental weight options.

In 1999, the “higher gross weight” A330-300X was introduced, with a 230-233t MTOW. In 2004, Airbus introduced the enhanced version featuring an even higher MTOW of up to 238t in addition to minor aerodynamic improvements, a fly-by-wire rudder and upgraded avionics.

The 242t version, which will deliver next year to Delta Air Lines, will allow missions with a higher fuel capacity option increasing range to 6,100nm.

Last September Airbus launched a lower-weight variant aimed at the Chinese market. The manufacturer has marketed the aircraft, which will have a lower maximum take-off weight of 200t, a reduced range of 3,000nm, and derated engines, as a solution for China's shortage of pilots, congested airports and growth in air traffic.

The regional variant, which will enter into service by early 2015, aims at short-haul markets which do not need the maximum take-off weight capabilities or the standard thrust settings of the long-haul version.

During the next five to 10 years, Airbus expects to sell “not less than a few hundreds” of the variant. The manufacturer also said that besides China, the aircraft will be suited for use in India, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. It is also expecting the aircraft to bring an overall cost reduction of up to 15% because of the lower maintenance costs and increased number of seats.

Gainza argues that the regional A330-300 remain structurally heavy compared to some of its predecessors (the A300 and even the lower gross variant A330-300) and will still fall short of the A340’s range at the upper end.

The market is generally looking reasonable for the A330-300 as the type enjoys a wide operator base and most A330 production now seems to centre on this larger of the two variants, according to IBA’s senior analyst Jonathan Mcdonald.

Collateral Verifications’ vice president of commercial aviation services, Gueric Dechavanne, says part of the A330-300’s success is from not having much competing in-production aircraft at the current time. “The delays on the 787 and the fact that the A350 will not be delivered until 2014 have also helped the maintain demand for the type as many operators acquired the A330 to either compliment such orders or to be used as interim lift.”

Angus Mackay of ICF SH&E says operational capability improvements on the aircraft over time have eclipsed its natural competitor, the Boeing 777-200, and meets most of the mission profiles of the more capable 777-200ER. “The A330-300 is also considered a good replacement candidate for the four-engined A340-300 in the current elevated fuel price environment, and has gained incremental benefit from the current A330 ETOPS limit of 240 minutes giving access to many new routes,” he adds.

The Asian market has driven sales for the A330-300 model during the past few years.Operational flexibility of the A330-300 is evidenced by its utilisation in the region.

Gainza says the A330-300 is ideal for high capacity intra-Asian routes, one of the strongest growth markets.

“A prime example of operational flexibility is in Asia where the A330-300 is predominately deployed,” says Mackay. “Several carriers use the aircraft both as a high capacity short haul aircraft given high passenger volumes but limited emerging market infrastructure as well as for longer Australasian and Transpacific routes with thinner traffic.”

Cargo Conversion

Airbus believes that freight-converted A330s will play an important role in the medium-capacity freighter market over the next 20 years. In its freighter aircraft forecast, Airbus projects that there will be demand for 1,237 midsize freighters with payloads of between 30 and 80t capacity over the next 20 years. It adds that 824 are expected to be converted from passenger aircraft while another 413 will be new build.

The manufacturer launched the ‘P2F’ conversion programme at the 2012 Singapore air show in conjunction with EADS EFW and ST Aerospace, which will offer conversions on both the A330-200 and the -300 variants.

Airbus's vice-president freighters Andreas Hermann said that the time that the project was on track to roll out in 2016 or 2017.

Hermann says that the P2F programme will appeal more to low-utilisation operators who will benefit from the smaller capital costs, while new-build A330-200Fs will be more suited to express operators who have higher utilisation.

He adds that the larger capacity of the A330-300P2F would also appeal to the express freight market, which is expected to grow strongly in the Asia Pacific region over the next 20 years.

No conversion orders have been placed but the A330-P2F programme should be a sensible replacement for A300-600Fs.

A P2F conversion will be in the region of $16 million, sources indicate, and feedstock will have to be priced in the $7 million to $15 million range, depending on the vintage and the engine status.

One source tells Flightglobal that the Garuda Indonesia and Philippine Airlines early models are considered as candidates. According to the source, bids for the Garuda 1996/97-vintage fleet are between $7 million and $12 million. The 1997/98-vintage Philippine Airlines aircraft are expected in the $10-14 million range, says the source.

A330neo?

Airbus is likely to make a decision on whether to move forward with a re-engined A330, dubbed the A330neo, by the middle of 2014, according to Airbus Americas president Barry Eccleston.

A decision on the aircraft is needed in order to ensure that it is competitive with the Boeing 787 but does not erode sales of the European airframer’s own A350 when it enters service, Eccleston said at the Phoenix International Aviation symposium earlier this year.

According to Airbus’s executive vice president of programmes Tom Williams, a re-engined A330 will require the wing to be reinforced. Also, Airbus will need to design a new nacelle and pylon, resulting in another set of flight tests.

If launched the A330neo entry-into-service window could be in the 2017 or 2018 timeframe when there is limited availability of A350s and 787s, based on comments from various lessors and lenders at the ISTAT Americas conference in March.

“There are airlines that are receptive to an A330neo that aren’t going to order the [A350]-800,” said Steven Udvar-Hazy, chief executive of Air Lease, at ISTAT. “Some of them have been converted to the [A350]-900, but the [A330]neo is getting more attention and we will have to see what happens.”

While not naming any carriers, he says: “There is one large US airline that’s, I think, very interested in the re-engined A330. They have a large number of ageing [Boeing] 767s and 747-400s that they need to do something [about] in the next five years.”

Delta Air Lines released a request for proposals for up 50 widebody aircraft to replace its 747-400s and a significant number of its 767-300ERs earlier in April. It is evaluating the A330-200 and -300, A350-900 and -1000, Boeing 777-300ER and 787-8, -9 and -10 with an order possible in the second half of this year.

The Atlanta-based carrier says that it is only considering aircraft currently available in the market under the RFP but does not specifically rule out a possible A330neo.

Asian carriers, especially in China, and major European carriers could also be A330neo customers, said Steve Mason, vice-president of aircraft analysis at CIT Aerospace, at ISTAT. They are expected to need additional 250- to 300-seat aircraft between 2018 and 2021 than are currently available, he said.

DVB Bank’s managing director, aviation research Bert van Leeuwenrecently talked about the potential demise of the A350-800 in the Airbus widebody programme.

Neither an all-new twin aisle, nor an A322 are realistic options. In the short-term, the much discussed A330neo seems the only affordable quick fix, and it actually may do surprisingly well,” he says.

Van Leeuwen also thinks that the market seems a limited for more than one engine supplier. “While a version of the Rolls Royce Trent seems the obvious choice, General Electric seems to be re-focusing on the A330,” he says.

Lease rates and values

Financing appetite for the A330-300 remains solid with commercial bank funding the preferred financing tool. The sale and leaseback activity is also buoyant with Philippine Airlines recently agreeing a deal with AWAS, Garuda with Avolon Aerospace, Novus Aviation Capital with Malaysia Airlines and Air China selling new deliveries to Chinese lessors.

A sale and leaseback transaction is currently being negotiated at a 0.9% lease rate factor, says a source, with the new aircraft being offered for sale at more than $120 million.

Irish flag-carrier Aer Lingus is in the market for the sale and leaseback of one 2009-vintage General Electric CF6-powered Airbus A330-300 with four years lease terms.

Despite a low inventory, the A330-300 market remains a leasing market.

One leasing source tells Flightglobal that renewals have been agreed in the $600,000 a month lease rate range.

Appraisers examined a Rolls-Royce Trent 772B-60 powered aircraft and MTOW of 233t in most cases. However for the 1994-vintage model, a lower MTOW was assumed.

Ascend says low gross weight A330-300s are leasing in the $265,000 range for a 20-year model and $300,000 a month for a 1998-vintage. Ascend sees a $440,000 lease rate for a 2002-vintage, $525,000 for a 2006-built unit and $645,000 for a four-year-old aircraft and around $925,000 for a new delivery.

MBA expects a $285,000 a month lease rate for a 1994-vintage, $330,000 for a 1998-built, $530,000 for a 2002-vintage, $620,000 for a 2006-built unit, $725,000 for a four-yea- old aircraft and around $850,000 for a new delivery.

IBA has a $225-265,000 a month range for a 20-year old model. Monthly rentals for a 1998-vintage is between $300,000 and $350,000 says IBA. For a 2002-built aircraft, IBA has a $415-475,000 a month range. A 2006-built has a $555-605,000 a month range, $680-760,000 for a four-year-old aircraft and between $810,000 and $850,000 for a new delivery.

ICF SH&E has a new delivery lease rate between $775,000 and $900,000, a four-year-old aircraft between $650,000 and $775,000 a month. For a 2006-built aircraft ICF SH&E has $520-610,000 a month lease rate. A 2002-vintage has a $395,000 to $475,000 monthly lease rental, says ICF SH&E, while a 1998-vintage aircraft leases between $285,000 and $365,000. IBA has a $205-285,000 a month range for a 20-year old model.

Collateral Verifications says a 1994-built aircraft has a $275,000 lease rate. It expects a $350,000 a month lease rate for a 1998-vintage, $455,000 for a 2002-vintage, $590,000 for a 2006-built, $730,000 for a four-year-old aircraft and around $920,000 for a new delivery.

Current market value (CMV) of a 20-year old model is $15.9 million for Ascend, $17.3 million for IBA, $18.5 million for Collateral Verifications, $20.9 million for ICF SH&E and $21.3 million for MBA.

For a 1998-vintage model Ascend also has a $15.9 million CMV for a low gross weight version but $36.8 million for a high gross weight variant.

“Market values of the original A330-300 model, representing lower weight models and build-years 1992-98, last declined at the start of the first quarter by 19-21%,” says Gainza. According to him, market values of the high gross weight variant also last declined at the beginning of 2014, by around 8%, but have remained stable since.

IBA and MBA have values of $27.4 million and $27.6 million, respectively. ICF SH&E has $31.7 million while Collateral Verifications has a $31.2 million CMV.

IBA is the lowest appraiser on a 2002-vintage model. The firm values the aircraft at $42.7 million, while Ascend says $44 million, Collateral Verifications has $45 million and ICF SH&E says $45.1 million. MBA is the highest appraiser with $49.3 million.

An eight-year-old model valuation show more discrepancy. MBA has a $63.7 million and Ascend has $55.6 million. Collateral Verifications has $56.5 million, IBA has $59.5 million while ICF SH&E’s valuation is $61.3 million.

A 2010-vintage model is valued at $70.9 million by Collateral Verifications and $72.8 million by Ascend. IBA has $79.8 million and ICF SH&E has $80.9 million. MBA is the highest with $82.3 million valuation.

A new delivery is estimated at $103.6 million by Ascend and IBA. ICF SH&E is slightly higher with a $104.4 million valuation. Collateral Verifications and MBA are on the higher side with $106.5 million and $107.2 million, respectively.

Dechavanne says Airbus has been aggressive with certain campaigns offering the aircraft for sub-$100 million. “This could affect used aircraft values and lease rates if pricing on sale and leasebacks is reduced due to this more attractive pricing. “We are still seeing sale and leasebacks done well above $100 million as well, which tells us that there is still good appetite for the aircraft from lessors and investors,” he says.