Airbus cleared the air about the A330neo, which we concluded was a must last December, and made the 2014 Farnborough Airshow go off to an exciting start. A lot has been speculated about the A330neo, and in the end it did come out bit stronger than what most had anticipated. Some of that is marketing but a lot is real, and here we give a first assessment of what was launched.
Let’s start with the specifics as given by Airbus and Rolls-Royce today in presentations and discussions. Here are the A330-800neo and -900neo’s main features:
- New Rolls Royce T7000 engines based on the T1000-TEN with CFRP nacelles from SAFRAN using nacelle technology developed for the A380. We understand the nacelles will have laminar flow leading edge shapes, pylons are from Airbus Toulouse.
- New wingtips based on the curved winglets that were developed for A350.
The new winglets are made from CFRP and extend the A330neo span from 60.3m to 64m, more than anticipated. They are still called sharklets.
- An adaptation of the wings twist to reshape the changed pressure distribution the new wingtips generate to the most optimal distribution for the aircraft. Airbus also optimizes the inner slats outer shape to improve the wings cruise aerodynamics.
- A cabin which is derived from the A350. Both business and economy cabin now look like in the A350, featuring reshaped overhead bins, modern IFE/connectivity,
mood lighting and electronically regulated air-conditioning. By using Spaceflex, smart lavatories and an optimized cargo bay crew rest, housing both flight crew and cabin crew, the seat count can be increased with six seats. The cockpit adopts technology from A350 giving increase cockpit commonality with the A350 range.
- Lowered maintenance costs. In total the A330neo will require 50% fewer maintenance man-hours over 12 years; this will reduce the direct maintenance costs by 5%.
- A330neo weights and range as given in the table from today’s Airbus presentation:
Noteworthy are the kept Max Take-Off Weights and increased Max Zero Fuel Weights to keep max payload the same as the A330ceo, despite the A330neo weighing almost 5t more empty.
The changed characteristic of the A330
The marked increase of wingspan and empty weight will change the character of the A330. Were it previously most efficient on short-to-mid-haul missions, it will now use its efficiency gains most effectively on longer haul. Today’s Airbus presentation gives a good picture of the long haul gains:
If we leave the per seat gains for the moment and focus the 12% trip fuel gain, this is valid for 4,000nm missions and beyond. For the common 2,000nm missions or below, the increased weight will negate most if not all of the projected fuel consumption improvements. This has also been confirmed by Airbus VP of Strategy and Marketing, Kiran Rao, in press quotes in the days leading up to Farnborough. What this all means in detail will be subject of deeper analysis with our proprietary airplane model. We will present our overall findings here and put the detailed results in an updated version of our 60 page A330neo report.
For now we can see that the A330-900neo will be as good as today’s A330ceo on short haul but not really better. It will, however, be considerably more efficient on the longer haul 8-10 hours Trans-Atlantic and intra-Asia networks. As the typical A330-300 route of today has an average stage length of 2,000nm, we can see that the A330ceo’s attractiveness will not be gone, but will still be a good alternative for short-haul networks with high capacity requirements. Now that the ambiguity hanging over the A330 program is gone, it should not be difficult to sell the 200 open slots that remains until the A330neo is planned to fully replace the A330ceo production end in 2018. How close the A330neo comes to the efficiency of Boeing’s 787 will be the subject of our next assessment.
The A330neo will be competitive with the in the 250-to-300 seat category, competing with the 787-8/9, complementing the A350-900 and competing with the 777-200ER. Boeing insists on comparing the A330-900 with the 787-10, though the latter carries at least 20 more passengers. We will be taking a look at the Boeing claims that the 787-10 is 30% more economical than the A330-900.
The end result of today’s launch is that Airbus and Boeing enters a new era in widebody competition with very similar yet opposite line-ups. Where one has the derivative spreading its wider wings on the low end (Airbus), the other choose to let the wider wing stretch on the top end (Boeing). They both share the rationale for the derivatives increased wingspan, to carry heavier legacy (aluminum) fuselages.
By Leeham Co EU