There are overlooked possibilities for the Airbus A330-800 and A330-900 New Engine Options.
What, you may ask, are these?
The A330neo might give new life to the poor-selling A330-200F program and, perhaps more importantly better position Airbus to compete for the next round of the USAF Air Force Tanker competition, the KC-Y program.
KC-Y is the follow-on to the KC-X intended to replace the aging fleet of Boeing KC-135s. After a leasing-procurement scandal that sent a USAF officer and the Boeing chief financial officer to jail and a bungled Round Two in which the USAF changed the rules of the specifications without telling Boeing (and resulting in a win for Northrop Grumman/EADS), Boeing won Round Three for the 767-based KC-46A, for 179 airplanes.
The USAF plan was to hold a second procurement for an additional round of new tankers. The assumption by many has been that the KC-X winner would be the KC-Y provider. Not so fast, however. A competition is all but certain.
One key point, other than price in which Boeing underbid EADS by 10%, was the operational cost driven by fuel consumption. Boeing claimed its 767-200ER-based KC-X had 24% better fuel burn, based on US Department of Transportation data, than the EADS-offered Airbus A330-200-based tanker. Airbus always disputed this figure, claiming the difference was 6%. Regardless, the 767 did burn less fuel.
An A330-800neo is claimed by Airbus to have 14% lower fuel burn than the current A330-200. (We will be performing our own analysis.) We don’t know that the Airbus figure is correct but we highly doubt the Boeing claim, in large part because it’s based on DOT 41 data that is inherently flawed, and in part because if the A332 was 24% worse than the 767, nobody would buy the airplane—and the 767 wouldn’t have been driven out of business by the A330.
The A330-800 will make a more compelling offering on economics for the next round. Working against a new Airbus bid will be the Rolls-Royce engines, the Trent 7000. The KC-330 proposal would have used GE CF6 engines, and foreign vs domestic sourcing was a major political football during the Round Three competition.
The final round, the KC-Z, will be to replace theMcDonnell Douglas KC-10, based on the commercial DC-10, at which time Boeing is expected to offer the 777.
As for the potential of breathing new life into the A330F program, market sources told Leeham Co. that the cost-benefit of the A330-200F didn’t pan out for a new-build, main-deck freighter of its specifications and capabilities. A more fuel efficient version might give the program new life, these market sources suggest.
But it all depends on the global demand for freight. Boeing’s new-build, main-deck 747-8F and 777-200LRF have been struggling for sales the last couple of years. Boeing forecasts sufficient demand, beginning in 2016-17, for three new main-deck freighters a month (and claims these will be its airplanes).
A more efficient A330-800F, with a purported double-digit improvement in fuel efficiency, may or may not gain new traction for this program.