A collection of Airbus A330 images.
In the mid-1970s, Airbus began development of the A300B9, a larger derivative of the A300, which would eventually become the A330. The B9 was essentially a lengthened A300 with the same wing, coupled with the most powerful turbofan engines available. It was targeted at the growing demand for high-capacity, medium-range, transcontinental trunk routes. Offering the same range and payload as the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 but with 25 per cent more fuel efficiency, the B9 was seen as a viable replacement for the DC-10 and the Lockheed 1011 Tristar. It was also considered as a medium-ranged successor to the A300. In June 1987, Airbus launched the A330.
The A330 shares its airframe with the early A340 variants, having two engines instead of four, two main landing gear legs instead of three, lower weights and slightly different lengths. Both airliners have fly-by-wire controls, which was first introduced on the A320, as well as a similar glass cockpit. The A330 was Airbus's first airliner to offer a choice of three engines, the General Electric CF6, the Pratt & Whitney PW400 or the Rolls-Royce Trent 700.
The A330-300 has a range of 11,750 km or 6,350 nmi with 277 passengers, while the shorter A330-200 can cover 13,450 km or 7,250 nmi with 247 passengers. Later variants include the A330-200F dedicated freighter, the A330 MRTT military tanker and the ACJ330 corporate jet.
To differentiate from the existing Airbus ‘SA’ series aircraft, the B9 and B11 were re-designated as the TA9 and TA11, with TA standing for ‘twin aisle’.
Development costs were reduced by the two aircraft using the same fuselage and wing, with projected savings of US$500 million. Another factor was the split preference of those within Airbus and, more importantly, those of prospective customers, twinjets were favoured in North America, quad-jets were more desirable in Asia, and operators had mixed views in Europe. Airbus ultimately found that most potential customers favoured four engines due to their exemption from existing twinjet range restrictions and their ability to be ferried with one inactive engine. As a result, development plans prioritised the four-engined TA11 ahead of the TA9. The ‘B11’ would become the A340, Airbus’ first 200-seat four-engined airliner.
Airbus launched the A330 and A340 programmes on June 05, 1987, just prior to the Paris Air Show.
The wing-to-fuselage mating of the first A330, the tenth airframe of the A330 and A340 line, began in mid-February 1992. This aircraft, coated with anti-corrosion paint, was rolled out on March 31, without its General Electric CF6-80E1 engines, which were installed by August. During a static test, the wing failed just below requirement. British Aerospace engineers later resolved the problem.
The first completed A330 was rolled out on October 14, 1992, with the maiden flight taking place on November 02. Weighing 181,840 kg (401,000 lb), including 20,980 kg (46,300 lb) of test equipment, the A330 became the biggest twinjet to have flown, until the later first flight of the Boeing 777. The flight lasted five hours and fifteen minutes during which speed, height, and other flight configurations were tested. Airbus intended the test flight programme to comprise six aircraft flying a total of 1,800 hours.
On October 21, 1993, the Airbus A330 received the European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifications simultaneously after 1,114 cumulative airborne test hours and 426 test flights. At the same time, weight tests came in favourable, showing the plane was 500 kg (1,100 lb) under weight.
On June 30, 1994, a fatal crash occurred near Toulouse during the certification of the Pratt & Whitney engined A330. Both pilots and the five passengers died. The flight was designed to test autopilot response during a one-engine-off worst-case scenario with the centre of gravity near its aft limit. Shortly after takeoff, the pilots had difficulty setting the autopilot, and the aircraft lost speed and crashed. An investigation by an internal branch of Direction Generale d'Aviation concluded that the accident resulted from slow response and incorrect actions by the crew during the recovery. This led to a revision of A330 operating procedures.
Air Inter became the first operator of the A330,when its first aircraft entered service on January 17, 1994 flying from Paris Orly to Marseille.