A330F – a panacea or an expensive luxury that can no longer be justified

THE first A330-200 freighter has emerged from the paint shop in Toulouse and is now being prepared for the flightline. At the end of October the handover of the aircraft to the Airbus flight-test department will take place, to commence the ground tests and pave the way for its maiden flight in November.
However, as Airbus reveals its first new-build freighter type for many years to the world, analysts are questioning the viability of the project following the credit crunch and rapid reduction in the world’s freighter fleets.
Airbus states that there are currently 67 firm orders from nine customers and certification is expected during spring 2010, with the first delivery to follow during the summer.
The big question must be whether the aircraft will in fact be delivered. The Airbus A330F order book is down by 12 aircraft from its peak of 77 last year, due to two of the leasing customers switching their orders to passenger versions of the A330.
Other customers have stood firm, though the official Airbus list still includes 12 A330Fs for Flyington Freighters of India, a company which remains invisible in the airfreight market and which, according to some rumours, has struggled to obtain finance for its order.
One leasing customer that is definitely standing firm, however, is Intrepid, a US freighter leasing company. Gerry Aubrey, its senior leasing officer, confirms that discussions are taking place with Airbus about deferring deliveries, originally scheduled to start in 2010, but says the company remains committed to eventually taking delivery of all 20 of the aircraft that it has ordered.
Airbus meanwhile is desperately pushing forward the benefits of the new A330. It has revealed that preliminary data shows that the aircraft can carry at least half a tonne more payload than initially published. This is due to a reduction in the manufacturer’s empty weight by a corresponding amount following an extensive weight saving exercise.

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