Airbus Uses The Rare A330-800neo To Move Medical Supplies

As part of its effort to assist the ongoing battle against COVID-19, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has been using one of its test A330-800neos for a special delivery. The aircraft has transported around two million masks from manufacturing facilities in China, ready for use by authorities and medical staff in Europe.

Face Mask Delivery
Face masks are in high demand around the world. Photo: Getty Images

This past weekend, one of Airbus’s A330-800neos operated an important flight between Europe and Tianjin, China. The aircraft, which is actually one of Airbus’ own A330-800neo testbeds, was responsible for the safe passage of around two million face masks which will be used in the ongoing fight against COVID-19. Airbus says it has plans for additional flights in the coming days.

Europe is currently the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, with Italy, Spain and France among the worst affected countries in the world. Airbus’s shipment of face masks, which have come straight from manufacturers in China, will be donated to authorities and health services across Europe. According to a press release published on Airbus’s website yesterday, the majority of the face masks will be donated to authorities in Spain and France.

Discussing the ongoing pandemic, Airbus’s Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Faury, said:

“We are doing all we can to support those on the frontline to fight the coronavirus and limit its spread. We try to live up to our values, humbled by the complexity of the situation, and contribute as much as we can to society in these very difficult times.”

A downturn for airlines and aircraft manufacturers

The COVID-19 epidemic has had a profound effect on the global economy over the past two months. The aviation industry has been one of the hardest-hit sectors, with commercial airlines bearing the brunt of the negative impact of travel restrictions.

Airbus Manufacturing facility
Airbus and Boeing manufacturing facilities have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills via Flickr

The big two aircraft manufacturers have also been badly affected. Both have had to temporarily halt various production lines in response to government-mandated quarantines and a downturn in demand.

However, Airbus expects operations to resume its production and assembly facilities in both Spain and France today. The manufacturer has conducted thorough health and safety checks and implemented new measures in its facilities to ensure they meet standards required by local governments in light of ongoing shutdowns. Airbus will also implement these measures and additional regulations in its other facilities in order to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

The Airbus A330-800neo

The aircraft used to pick up and deliver the shipment of two million face masks wasn’t just your average Airbus A330. It was in fact a testbed version of Airbus’s A330-800neo, the smaller version of the A330-900neo.

Airbus A330-900neo
The Airbus A330-800neo recently gained certification by the EASA (Airbus A330-900neo pictured). Photo: Alex Cheban via Wikimedia Commons

The Airbus A330-800neo only achieved joint type certification after EASA approval back in mid-February. At the moment there aren’t many airlines operating the Airbus A330-800neo and the order book for the type remains reasonably empty. This makes the Airbus A330-800neo a pretty rare beast.

Currently, Kuwait Airlines has an order for eight Airbus A330-800neos, the first of which it is set to take delivery of in November. Depending on how the coronavirus pandemic progresses, the Airbus A330-800neo’s European certification may have come at just the wrong time.