Airbus on 19 October kicked off the A330neo's three-aircraft 1,400h flight-test programme which should lead to certification and first deliveries of the initial -900 variant in the middle of 2018.

The first aircraft, one of two A330-900s that will participate in the test programme, completed a 4h 12min maiden flight from Toulouse yesterday with five test crew on board.

A330neo landing Airbus

The first of two A330-900 test aircraft lands back in Toulouse after its 4h 12min maiden flight on 19 October


The A330-900 was originally due to fly early this year but the flight-test programme was held up largely as a result of delays in the delivery of the aircraft's Rolls-Royce Trent 7000s. Shipments to launch customer TAP Portugal had been due to take place before the end of 2017, but the first is not now expected until the middle of 2018.

Speaking in a video interview published by Rolls-Royce about the first flight, the engine-maker’s civil aerospace customers and services director Dominic Horwood says there is a “challenging flight-test period ahead of us”.

“We’ve got to do it faster than ever before,” he says. “We need to get the aircraft into service by the middle of next year, working hand-in-glove with Airbus.”

Around 1,100h of A330-900 flight testing will be undertaken with two main test aircraft, MSN1795 and MSN1813. Cabin testing will be undertaken with TAP's first -900 (MSN1819), which will be configured with the new Airspace interior.

An additional 300h will be flown by the A330-800, with flight testing set to "commence in due course", says Airbus. Final assembly of the first aircraft is to start in Toulouse by year-end. To date, sales of the -800 have been slow, with it accounting for just six of the 212 A330neo orders – all from Hawaiian Airlines.

Additional reporting by David Kaminski-Morrow