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Airbus rethinks 250-seater to keep A330 commonality

Julian Moxon/TOULOUSE

Airbus Industrie has moved away from replacing its 200-260-seat A310/A300-600 family on a design based around a mix of the A300-600 and A330. Instead, it is working on an aircraft having "total commonality" with the current A330-200/300 models.

As recently as March (Flight International, 4-10 April),the consortium was talking about deriving the A330-100 from a shortened A330-200 fuselage, incorporating its fly-by-wire cockpit and internal improvements, mated to a smaller wing based on that of the A300-600 wing with significant aerodynamic improvements.

Now, according to Airbus vice-president marketing, Colin Stuart, the consortium has gone back to a pure-A330 based design. "We've moved on," he says. "This is a product development study that is quite normal for us. Today we believe it would be better to retain maximum commonality with the A330. The wing is virtually identical [to those of the A330-200 and -300]." He says one of the advantages is that the A330's engines can also be used for the new aircraft.

Stuart says the main benefit is a 50-70% cut in non-recurring development costs, although he admits that keeping the 60.3m (200ft) span wing of the A330 (compared to the 44.8m span A300-600 wing) "will lose us a few customers" because it is too wide for some of the airport gates used by current A300/A310 and Boeing 767 operators being targeted for the A330-100.

"On the other hand, we will win some business because of the longer range offered by the A330 wing and the potential for higher gross weight versions," he says.

Potential A330-100 launch customers include Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and Hapag-Lloyd, which are studying the new aircraft to replace their A300/A310 fleets.

The 2003 in-service target has been unaffected (Flight International, 29 February - 6 March), and the new aircraft is expected to be given the go-ahead in time for the Farnborough air show in July. As currently proposed, the A330-100 will seat 210-260 passengers, have a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 195t and, in its initial version, offer a range of 8,325km (4,500nm). This compared against a projected weight and range for the previously proposed A300-600-based variant of 173t MTOW and 7,770km.

• Cathay Pacific has ordered four A330-300s for delivery in the second half of 2001, along with three more A330s and one A340-300 under separate lease agreements.

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