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A330-900 approval comes 50 months after launch

Airbus is preparing to deliver the first A330-900 to launch operator TAP Air Portugal, after belatedly securing European certification for the first member of its re-engined A330 family.

While its original 42-month schedule for developing the A330neo proved over-ambitious, Airbus obtained approval for the aircraft from the European Aviation Safety Agency on 26 September.

It had formally applied 50 months and one day beforehand, just 11 days after unveiling the A330neo at the 2014 Farnborough air show.

EASA lists five initial weight variants for the -900 in its type certification documentation, with maximum take-off weights ranging from 230t to the highest figure of 242t.

Rolls-Royce’s Trent 7000 engines – the exclusive powerplant on the A330neo – had been certified by EASA on 20 July, as a variant of the Trent 1000 for the Boeing 787.

The Trent 7000 is larger than the Trent 700 for the A330 and EASA lists the new engine, at 6,445kg, as being some 300-400kg heavier than the Trent 1000.

EASA puts the take-off thrust of the Trent 7000 at 72,834lb (324kN), compared with 71,100lb for the 700, and a maximum continuous thrust of just over 65,000lb.

Other type certification details illustrate the A330-900’s commonality with its A330-300 predecessor.

The three fuel tanks on each aircraft – wing, centre and trim – have the same capacities, for a total fuel load of just over 139,000 litres.

EASA has also certified the -900 to the same accommodation standards, clearing it for 375 passengers in basic exit configuration and up to 440 with four pairs of type ‘A’ doors.

Airbus is pursuing extended twin-engine operations (ETOPS) approval for the A330neo. The A330-300 obtained ETOPS clearance beyond 180min in 2009.

Customers have placed orders for 224 A330-900s. TAP is taking 10 directly from Airbus and the Portuguese carrier is set to receive four more through lessors.

The airline’s first A330-900, MSN1819, was one of three aircraft participating in some 1,400h of flight tests – including route proving and evaluation of the revamped ‘Airspace’ cabin layout for the twinjet. Certification was achieved 342 days after the A330-900's maiden flight in October last year.

Airbus commercial aircraft president Guillaume Faury says the A330neo has “tremendous market potential” and embodies the airframer’s “spirit of innovation”.

He says TAP will receive its first jet “in the coming weeks”. Delta Air Lines is also an A330-900 customer, and Airbus is expecting to obtain US FAA certification for the aircraft shortly.

Airbus has incorporated several modifications, aside from the new engines, into the A330neo design, including a reshaped wing and ‘sharklet’ wing-tips to increase the span to 64m.

It is set to start test-flying the smaller A330neo variant, the A330-800, within the next few weeks. Airbus is also developing a higher-weight version of both models, taking the maximum take-off weight to 251t and extending the A330-900’s range to 7,200nm.

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