After a long wait, the A330-800neo has finally achieved certification. Airbus announced today that the smallest A330neo has received joint Type Certification from both the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The A330-800 gets certified
The A330-800 has been long awaited in our skies. Despite its larger brother, the A330-900, being in service for over a year, Airbus has needed to separately certify the -800 with the regulators. Previously, Airbus had planned certification of the type for mid- to late-2019, but announced in October that the timeline was being shifted to ‘early 2020’.
For a while, the industry wondered if this type would ever make it to certification at all. With just 10 on order in the autumn last year, it was mooted that perhaps the variant would be scrapped altogether. Well, now it’s clear that Airbus is right behind its baby widebody, as it has achieved certification today.
The joint Type Certification was awarded to the A330-800 by both the major regulators – the FAA and EASA. Although there has been some push back against following the FAA’s lead since the MAX debacle, it’s likely that other regulators will follow suit soon.
Details of the certification
Airbus says that the A330-800 testbed that performed the flight test campaign was MSN1888. It completed the program in 370 test flight hours and has undertaken 132 flights since its first in November 2018, which you can watch below.
The initial certification of the type is for a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 242 tons, for a range of up to 7,500 nmi. Passenger capacity is typically between 220 and 260 passengers in a three class configuration, or up to 406 in an all economy, high density layout.
So far, only a handful of airlines have ordered the A330-800. Kuwait Airways has eight on order, Uganda Airlines has two and there are four logged as sold to an ‘undisclosed customer’. Air Greenland recently announced it would be taking one aircraft to replace its aging A330-200.
Airbus’ clever play for the long game
With still only a handful of orders for the type, you might wonder why Airbus is even bothering to press on with the -800 project. However, the European planemaker is actually being very smart in its strategies here, because it is playing the long game for sales.
The -800 is somewhat on a par with the A330-200 in terms of passenger capacity. That, essentially, is its problem. There are many -200s still out there with plenty of life left in them, so airlines are not ready to make an order for a replacement. When they do, however, there is a readymade, fuel-efficient replacement there for them, all certified and ready to go.
The introduction of the -800 will also deal a death blow to any hopes Boeing had of resurrecting its ‘New Midsize Airplane’ (NMA) project. Last year, Airbus CCO Christian Scherer described the position of any NMA coming out of the Boeing stable as being stuck between a ‘rock’ and a ‘hard place’. The ‘rock’ is the long-range A321neo, and the ‘hard place’ is the A330-800.
What he means by this is that there is no market left for a ‘797’, as Airbus has offerings at the top end and the bottom end of the NMA spectrum. For now, at least, Boeing has shelved all plans for the NMA while its new boss Dave Calhoun reassesses the direction the company takes in the future. With the A330-800 now a step closer to entering service, it’s one more reason for the planemaker not to revisit this idea.
Are you looking forward to seeing the A330-800 in action? Let us know in the comments.