Julian Moxon/PARIS

AIRBUS INDUSTRIE IS preparing to launch the shortened version of the A330 long-range wide body twinjet "before the end of the year", for service entry in 1998.

The manufacturer has been pushing to launch the 250-seat A330-M10 as soon as the market showed sufficient interest and, although there is no official order, several carriers, including Singapore Airlines, are known to be looking closely at the aircraft.

Airbus badly needs a new-generation aircraft to compete with versions of the Boeing 767, and has conceived the 11,800km (6,400nm)-range A330 derivative as the lowest-cost solution, at around $450 million to develop. Improvements to the aircraft would also be fed back into the original A330.

The consortium also sees the new type as a way of reviving sales of the A330, for which there are orders for 113 aircraft, but virtually no sales in the last three years.

Airbus marketing director Philippe Jarry projects a potential market for 800 mid-size wide bodies in the next 20 years. He says that the A300-M10 will have direct operating costs some 9% below those of the 767-300ER.

Jarry has also confirmed that the consortium has a letter of intent from an unnamed airline for its ultra-long-range 230-seat A340-8000, "...but we need some more commitments before we launch". He adds that the consortium has asked its partners for approval to increase production of the A319/A320/A321 range from 66 aircraft in 1996, to 70.

Source: Flight International