The Airbus A330-900 has received its type certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency ahead of the delivery of the first aircraft to TAP Air Portugal in coming weeks.
TAP’s aircraft served as a demonstrator during a global tour and joined two flight test aircraft in a certification program involving about 1400 flight test hours since the type first flew on October 17, 2017.
Airbus expects the corresponding certification from the US Federal Aviation Administration to follow soon.
Powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, Airbus claims the A330-900 has the lowest seat-mile cost in the 300-seater range.
The European manufacturer says the efficient Trent 7000s, a new optimized wing with new sharklets and the use of lighter composite materials bring a reduction in fuel consumption of 25 percent compared with older generation aircraft of similar size.
It also benefits from a common pilot rating with the A350 XWB and new data connectivity features aimed at helping operators predict potential issues before they become a problem.
The TAP aircraft will feature the Airspace by Airbus cabin with newly designed sidewalls and fixtures, larger overhead storage, advanced cabin mood lighting and the latest in-flight entertainment and connectivity.
Launched in July 2014, the neo is a refinement of the popular A330 in service since 1994.
Airbus has offered A330neo in two versions with 99 percent commonality, the A330-800, due to make its first flight in coming weeks, and A330-900.
The manufacturer has 224 firm orders for the -900 but the future of the A330-800 is in doubt after its sole customer, Hawaiian Airlines, canceled its order for six aircraft in favor of Boeing’s 787-9 Dreamliner.
Airbus also lost a campaign to sell the A330neo to American Airlines after it was unwilling to match the price Boeing offered.
However, AirAsia reconfirmed its commitment to 66 of the A330neo at this year’s Farnborough Air Show and placed an order for an additional 34, rounding up to an even 100.
Former Airbus chief commercial officer Eric Schulz conceded on the sidelines of June’s International Air Transport Association conference in Sydney that the route proving was when the rubber hit the road.
“And so far we are extremely satisfied with the performance of the plane .. after the first phase of flight tests,” he said. “In terms of delivery, we are working very closely with TAP but we are within the last delivery dates we made public before so there is no change.
“If anything the program is doing quite well now.”
On the question of demand, Schulz acknowledged Airbus had suffered two defeats in a row with Hawaiian and American and the losses were unfortunate.
“In this particular case, I am not particularly anxious about the future of the 330neo,” he said. “Just here over the last three days I’ve seen many, many customers very interested about the neo and we have deals in process.
“I am quite hopeful that we will continue to find our place in the market.”