An Airbus Military A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) has carried the largest passenger load in the history of the Royal Australian Air Force.

The aircraft, flown by 33 Sqn, carried 220 officer cadets and 14 crew on a 2h flight out of RAAF Fairbairn, says Airbus Military in a statement.

"The sortie was part of the squadron's introduction into service of the KC-30A, which is capable of carrying 270 passengers in the configuration selected by the RAAF," says Airbus Military. In RAAF service the A330 MRTT is designated the KC-30A.

A key objective of the flight was exploring the procedures and logistics involved in carrying a large passenger load.


© Airbus Military

The previous passenger record was set in 1999, when an RAAF Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules carried 180 passengers during a humanitarian relief mission in Indonesia.

The aircraft has also commenced hose-and-drogue aerial refuelling trials with Boeing F/A-18 aircraft operated by regular squadron pilots. Initially the trials were restricted to fighters flown by test pilots.

In March Airbus Military said it will promise Australia more A330 MRTT conversion work if Canberra purchases 10 C-295 transports under its Air 8000 Phase 2 requirement and a sixth MRTT. The C-295's rival for the first requirement is the L-3 Communications C-27J.

Qantas Defence Services in Brisbane has played a key role in A330 MRTT conversions, with the service's fifth and final aircraft currently being modified.

"As a quid pro quo, the acceptance of both offers [by Australia] would allow Airbus Military to commit to additional MRTT work in Australia for international customers, including deep level maintenance/MRO [maintenance, repair and overhaul], thanks to a secure industrial base," said Airbus Military.

Airbus Military sees strong potential for the A330 MRTT in the Asia Pacific. In India the type is competing against the Ilyushin IL-78MK for a six aircraft requirement. The aircraft was also on static display at recent air shows in Malaysia and Singapore.

Source: Flight International