Airbus is expecting a relatively short approval campaign for the higher-weight version of the A330-900, amounting to just 30-40h of testing.

While Airbus carried out the first flight of the aircraft on 28 February, it had already conducted a number of tests with the previous variant of the -900 specially adapted to higher weight category, obtaining special authorisation to operate with the landing-gear under these conditions.

“It’s not really a new aircraft,” says development flight test chief Jean-Philippe Cottet. “We did a lot of testing of the [earlier] -900 at such weights.”

These earlier tests included flight performance and noise assessment, enabling the campaign for the actual 251t version to be reduced.

A330-900 251t

Source: Airbus

Airbus wants to keep 251t A330neo testing down to around 30-40h

Airbus has reinforced structures on the higher-weight aircraft but, through a weight-reduction effort, kept the maximum empty weight and zero-fuel weight unchanged.

The 251t version has a modified landing-gear – which also extends the overhaul time from 10 years to 12 – but will not have to undergo a rejected take-off test, says Cottet, because previous testing covered the full range of take-off weights.

“It’s not needed for certification,” he says, but states that the test will be repeated when a new braking system, under development for the type, is introduced during the first year of service.

The higher weight will extend by some 650nm the range of the A330-900, compared with the previous 242t version, to 7,200nm with 287 passengers.

Head of widebody marketing Maria-Luisa Lucas-Ugena says the range change is “very significant” and the A330neo, as a result, is “becoming a true transpacific aircraft”.

Airbus says the weight increase and the associated changes to the new variant cannot be retrofitted to earlier aircraft.

But the higher-weight changes for the -900 will also be applied to the -800 to produce a 251t version.

Airbus indicates that there is no immediate need to hike the weight capability of the A330neo further. “[We are] always listening to [our] customers’ needs,” it says. “However, at this time, the 251t is as much as the market currently expects.”