Airbus Industrie's proposed 250-seater currently dubbed the A330-500 could fly in early 2003 with entry into service in early 2004. The first version is likely to be a 13,000km (7,000nm) aircraft. Later versions would feature derated engines to service regional routes of around 8,000km (4,350nm).Outlining the programme status, Colin Stuart, Airbus vice-president marketing, says: "We are trying to provide an aircraft for both regional and long-range operations."

The programme received a double boost at Farnborough this week, with International Lease Finance (ILFC) saying it would take 10 of the aircraft if it goes ahead and indications from CIT that it is interested in the aircraft.

Earlier studies into a replacement for the A310/A300 focused on a possible mix of the A300-600 and the A330. "We took this idea to airlines and leasing companies," says Smith, "but this suggested the global market was not sufficient."

The team is now looking at an eight-frame shrink of the A330-200, offering complete commonality particularly fly-by-wire cockpit with the A330-200/300 family. "This places us in a proper position to create a complete fly-by-wire family. I believe that cross-crew qualification has been the biggest single factor in the success of this family."

The 13,000km version would carry 222 passengers in a three-class layout or 266 in a two-class layout. Although the same power-plants currently used on the A330 family GE CF6-80E1, P&W PW4164/4168 and Rolls-Royce Trent 772 will be available for the A330-500, Stuart warns there would be a gap between introduction of the three types. "So we will leave selection of the first engine to the first customer."

Source: Flight Daily News