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Airbus A330 History – How did one of the worlds most popular twin jets evolve.

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A330 and A330neo History

The Airbus A330 was conceived in the 1970s along with its sister aircraft the Airbus A340. At the time Airbus Industries was looking for a successor to its launch aircraft the Airbus A300. The combined offering of the Airbus A330 and A340 was planned to be a replacement for the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC8 which were ending their domination of the intercontinental skies. They were also to be pitted against the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Lockheed L1011 Tristar, where the same capacity could be carried with a 25% saving in fuel.

The A330 and A340 started out their lives on the design books known respectively as A300B9 and the A300B11. This was later changed to TA9 and TA11 where TA stands for twin-aisle.

Virgin Australia Airbus A330 climbs out at Sydney_1_s
A Virgin Australia Airbus A330-243 climbs out at Sydney.

By 1982 the design called for a single class layout accommodating 410 passengers with a large underfloor cargo area able to double the capacity carried by McDonnell Douglas DC10 or Lockheed L1011 TriStar. The A330 was also now 8.46 metres (27.8 ft) longer than the A300.

June 1985 saw the addition of the “fly by wire” glass cockpit pioneered in passenger jets in the Airbus A320, as well as the side stick control. The A300-600 stabiliser, rudder and round sections of the fuselage would be retained but extended by two barrel sections.

A study was conducted by British Aerospace(BAe) into the use of a variable camber wing which requires the changing of the wing shape during different phases of flight. It was rejected as too expensive for the gains to be made.

From the outset, the TA9 (A330) was to be offered with three engine options, initially: Rolls Royce with the Trent 600, General Electric with the CF6 and Pratt and Whitney with the PW4168. It was found that more thrust was required than that offered by the above other than Pratt and Whitney whose PW4168 was specifically developed for the A330. Rolls Royce developed the Trent 700 with increased diameter to give 311 kN (70,000 lbf) of thrust. General Electric similarly increased the diameter to offer the CF6-80E1 delivering 300 to 320 kN (67,000 to 72,000 lbf) of thrust.

This was the first time Rolls Royce engines had been offered on an Airbus aircraft.

Air Asia Airbus A330 lands at Sydney_4_s
An Air Asia X Airbus Industrie A330-300 lands at Sydney.

Airbus A330 and A330neo History Timeline

27 January 1986 After an Airbus Industrie board meeting in Munich, a statement was released: Airbus Industrie is now in a position to finalise the detailed technical definition of the TA9, which is now officially designated the A330, and the TA11, now called the A340, with potential launch customer airlines, and to discuss with them the terms and conditions for launch commitments”.
12 May 1986 Airbus sent out proposals to the most likely airline launch customers for the A330, these included Lufthansa and Swissair
12 March 1987 The first orders for the A330 were received. Domestic French airline Air Inter ordered 5 aircraft with options for further 15. Thai Airways ordered four A330s with options for a further 4.
13 March 1987 Airbus indicated that both A330 and A340 aircraft would be formally launched in April and that A340 deliveries would start in May 1992 with A330 deliveries starting in 1993.
31 March 1987 Northwest Airlines signed for 10 A330 aircraft.
05 June 1987 Airbus launches the A330 program with 130 aircraft on its order books from 10 customers.
1989 Cathay Pacific signs for 9 aircraft, later increasing this to 11.
February 1992 The first A330 wings were mated to the fuselage. This was the 10th A340/A330 air-frame on the line.
31 March 1992 The first A330 is rolled out decked in only anti-corrosion paint and minus its General Electric engines.
June 1992 Northwest Airlines deferred its order of now 16 aircraft until 1994.
14 October 1992 The first finished A330 was rolled out of the hangar.
02 November 1992 The A330 had its maiden flight of 5 hours and 15 minutes. Height speed and other flight profiles were tested. At 181,840 kg (401,000 lb) which included 20,980 kg (46,300 lb) of test equipment, the A330 was the largest twinjet aircraft ever to have flown. This was soon beaten by the Boeing 777.
21 October 1993 The A330 received both the European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) and the Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) certificates after completing 1,114 hours of testing over 426 flights.
30 June 1994 Disaster struck when an A330 on a test flight crashed soon after takeoff while certifying a Pratt and Whitney engine. The investigation found that the cause was “slow response and incorrect actions by the crew during the recovery”. Airbus was required to amend the operating procedures.
17 January 1994 Domestic French carrier, Air Inter, became the first operator of the A330 using it on the Paris (Orly) to Marseille route.
2nd Half 1994 Thai Airways were the second carrier to receive their A330 following a delay caused by a problem with delamination of composite materials in the PW4168 engines reverse thrusters. It was put into service on the Bangkok to Taipei and Seoul routes.
22 December 1994 Cathay Pacific received their A330 powered by the newly certificated Trent 700s.
01 February 1995 Malaysia Airlines received their first A330.
24 November 1995 The Airbus Industrie Supervisory Board approve the development of the A330-200. This shorter, longer-range aircraft was a response to the falling sales of the 300 version and aimed at competing with the Boeing 767-300ER.
13 August 1997 The maiden flight of the Airbus A330 200 started a 16 month, 630-hour certification process.
05 November 2009 The A330-200F freighter version of the Airbus A330 200 made its maiden flight and began a 180-hour certification program. The aircraft was to replace the A300-600F.
November 2009 The A330 was the first aircraft to receive ETOPS-240 certification. ETOPS(Extended-range Twin-engine Operation Performance Standards) is a standard that certifies that a twin-engine aircraft can operate a given distance from alternative airfields. This is determined by stringent testing and design standards. Airbus used the cumulative over water flying hours of early operators, particularly Cathay Pacific and Aer Lingus to gradually build up the ETOPS certification from 90 to 120 to 180 and then 240. The number refers to the number of minutes an aircraft must be from the nearest available airfield.
August 2011 Of the 1,155 A330s ordered, 807 had been delivered.
February 2011 Airbus announced they are lifting production from 7.5 planes per month to 9 planes per month on to 10 per month by 2013.
14 July 2014 At the Farnborough Airshow, Boeing announces the go-ahead of the A330neo program.
19 November 2014 TAP Air Portugal becomes the launch customer for the A330 900neo with an order for 25 aircraft.
18 December 2014 Hawaiian Airlines opens the order book for the A330 800neo with an order for 6 aircraft. This replaced their order for the A350 800.
Asiana Airbus A330 rotating at Sydney_1_s
An Asiana Airbus Industrie A330 300 rotates for take-off at Sydney.

If there is more you want to learn about this airliner, please visit A330 Specs, A330 Assembly, A330 Order Book and A330 Home.
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3 thoughts on “Airbus A330 History – How did one of the worlds most popular twin jets evolve.”

  1. Pingback: 11/02/1992: First Flight of the Airbus A330 – Airways

  2. You re wrong! Tap air Portugal was the launch customer and the first to receive the 900 neo

    1. Obrigado Dino,

      we have corrected the mistake about the first to receive the Airbus A330-900 NEO. It was indeed TAP Air Portugal.

      Thank you for pointing this out.


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