Cathay Pacific Says Farewell To The World’s First Airbus A330

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The very first A330 to ever roll off the production line at Airbus has been put out to pasture. Having been used for certification flights for Airbus, B-HLJ went on to work for the Cathay group for more than two decades. Now, it has taken its last flight and will be resting its wings in Taipei.

Airbus A-330 Airliner
The original A330 has been retired. Photo: Getty Images

Retiring the first A330

The original A330 prototype has this week been retired by Cathay Pacific. The Airbus, a 27 and a half-year-old veteran, entered service flying for Airbus in November 1992, with registration number F-WWKA. It was Airbus’ very first A330 to roll out of the factory, MSN012, and undertook many of the certification and equipment testing flights for the new model.

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In its day, it was the world’s largest twin engine aircraft ever built. While it was thoroughly put through its paces in order for the type to achieve its certification, it wasn’t the end of the line for this particular model.

HLJ flying in Cathay Pacific livery. Photo: Ikarasawa via Wikimedia

In October 1996, the aircraft transferred to Cathay Pacific, taking on registration number VR-HLJ. Test equipment was removed, and a passenger cabin fitted with 267 economy seats and 44 business class. A year later, its registration was amended to B-HLJ, and that’s how it stayed for the rest of its time.

During its years with the Cathay group, it has flown for the main Cathay Pacific brand, as well as for Dragonair which then became Cathay Dragon. Over 24 years of service to the group, HLJ conducted a staggering 63,000+ hours of flying and almost 27,000 cycles.

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Now, the historic A330 has been put out to pasture, ending a little piece of aviation history. Undoubtedly, this aircraft was the forerunner of one of the most successful widebodies the world has ever seen. From the original A330-300 to the modern A330-900neo, the flexibility and versatility of this type has seen it going from strength to strength.

First A330 in the world
The aircraft flew more than 69,000 hours for the Cathay group. Photo: N509FZ via Wikimedia

The final flights of HLJ

As a Cathay Dragon workhorse, B-HLJ spent most of its time flying routes into China, often between Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. Its last revenue flight was on July 6th this year, when it arrived back in Hong Kong from Shanghai, completing its final rotation to the mainland.

It was officially withdrawn from use at that point and remained parked at Hong Kong until its retirement flight just over a week ago. On July 17th, the A330 flew under flight number KA2486 to its final resting place.

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The final short flight of HLJ. Image: FlightRadar24.com

Taking off from Hong Kong (HKG) at around 10:18 local time, it flew for just one hour and 20 minutes to Taipei (TPE). There it will be stored, awaiting its final fate. While it would be nice to think that this A330 would be taken up by a heritage organization or some other preservation society, this seems unlikely, particularly at the present time.

It will more likely remain stored and potentially have parts salvaged for spares. It’s not a glamorous end for this historic machine, but after almost 28 years of flying, it’s a well-deserved rest.

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