A330F takes off into a treacherous freighter market

THE new dedicated freighter variant of the A330 family completed its four-hour maiden flight from Toulouse on 5 November. This programme milestone marks the start of a 180-hour flight-test and certification campaign, paving the way for first delivery of the type to launch operator, Etihad Crystal Cargo, in the summer of 2010.Airbus confirmed that: “Etihad Crystal will be one of the first two customers, with delivery due in July/August.“We have several initial deliveries occurring in the first few weeks, and we are talking with our customers about the exact dates within that timeframe. This will in turn determine the exact sequence.”However, the aircraft has yet still to attract significant orders from airlines as financial problems, credit constraints and uncertainty in the market have seen all new freighter orders practically dry up.In addition one major airline customer, Flyington Freighters, seems no nearer a reality now than two years ago. Its management seem to have all but disappeared and there is no prospect of a commencement of operations as originally stated. Pressed on the issue of the current status of Flyington’s order Airbus would only say that: “We have agreed with them to reschedule the deliveries.”Airbus would also not confirm exactly how many of the current A330F orders from leasing and finance companies they expect to be converted to passenger versions in light of the collapse in demand in airfreight.At Freighters World Conference, held in Barcelona on 26-27 October, operators and analysts suggested that the A330F could face strong competition from converted B767-300s, which would have much lower acquisition costs, once deliveries of the B787 replacement gear up.For the full story read the latest issue of Air Cargo News, dated 13 November, 2009. To subscribe, click on ‘Subscribe’ above.

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