Airbus’ New Engine Option

Airbus A380

Airbus just rolled out its efficient A320neo (New Engine Option) and is getting ready for its maiden voyage. Powered by Pratt & Whitney engines, the developmental fleet of A320neo’s consists of two aircraft that will be put through extensive flight tests.

The single-aisle A320neo is scheduled to enter service in late 2015, according to an Airbus press release. The say the NEO delivers “at least 15 per cent reduction in fuel consumption.”

Next comes the A330neo. Right? Not yet. There’s been no announcement by Airbus, even though existing customers like Virgin Atlantic, Air Asia and others say they want a more efficient version of the 20-year-old A330 jet.

More than 100 airlines fly the wide-body A330 on short hops to 14-hour flights that haul 250 to 300 passengers. Airbus says it’s the only wide-body that “beats the economics of the most efficient single-aisle aircraft.”

A year ago, Airbus handed over its 1,000th A330 aircraft. They say they continually invest in “enhancements and incremental improvements for the A330 jetliner family.”

Next year, a lower-weight A330-300 version enters service. Airbus says it’s tailor-made for use in high growth markets like China and will accommodate up to 400 passengers. But it’s not an NEO.

Virgin Atlantic’s Sir Richard Branson has urged Airbus to make a “rapid decision” on the A330neo. So has AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes. They believe it would offer significant fuel savings.

Virgin Atlantic currently operates ten A330-300s as well as three A340-300s and 13 A340-600s. They’ve also have six A380-800s on order.

Airbus is considering whether to upgrade the wide-body jet, having selected Rolls Royce as engine supplier for the possible upgraded version, reports BT Magazine. Other sources say Pratt & Whitney is still in the running.

This week, Airbus told Reuters they’ve not yet made a decision on launching an A330neo version of their biggest-selling wide-body passenger jet. “The jury is still out,” said a spokesperson.

And here again, sources familiar with the project say technical work based on a Rolls Royce engine and new wingtips is complete and the $2 billion revamp will go ahead soon.

They say there will be upgrades of both types of A330, the 253-seat A330-200 and the 295-seat A330-300.

In competition is Boeing’s 787-9, the latest Dreamliner model. But the A350-800, the smallest version of the A350, is also similar. And therein lies the rub for Airbus.

News sources report Airbus could sell more than 1,000 of its popular but aging A330 should it decide to put modern engines on the plane. Quoting Airbus’ chief operating officer, a new model A330 could top “1,000 planes and stretch production to 2030.”

That sales outlook almost doubles production of the current A330. Airbus has sold 1,342 A330s through April and the backlog of orders is only 260 jets. They build 10 a month.

The Tarmac’s View: The “new engine option” is 15 percent more fuel efficient than the “current engine option.” Airbus has engine makers willing to throw cash in the hat and they have customers in hand. Speculation suggests Airbus will announce a new A330neo later this summer. The NEO should become the default model.

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