THE MODERN AIRPLANE-MAKING business features a lot of players, but only two that actually matter: Boeing and Airbus. Naturally, instead of sharing the global market, they spent a lot of their time and resources on a never-ending battle of one-upmanship.

In its eternal quest to outmaneuver Boeing in the skies, Airbus' launched its latest riposte to Boeing's successful, (if initially troubled) 787 Dreamliner. Thursday morning, the A330-900neo completed its maiden flight, a four-hour, 13-minute jaunt out of and into Toulouse-Blagnac airport in southwestern France, where the planemaker is based.

Airbus claims this new variant of the A330-900 will burn 14 percent less fuel than its predecessor, thanks to new and more efficient Rolls-Royce engines ("neo" stands for new engine option), the use of drag-reducing winglets, and minor improvements to the way the wings slice through the air. (As a bonus for those without noise-canceling headphones, Airbus pledges the new engines will make half as much noise as the units they're replacing.)

The twin-aisle, wide-bodied jet will hold up to 287 passengers in a standard layout, 10 more than could cram into the outgoing model. Somehow, the plane-maker has maximized capacity without making life in the air a waking nightmare (though it has considered that). Rather, it squeezed in the extra seats by rejiggering its cabin design, reorienting and shrinking the crew rest quarters and lavatories. That means every economy seat is a plausible 18 inches wide. So, not quite a palace—but no dungeon, either.

This improved efficiency and increased seating is a big deal for Airbus. The airline industry operates on profit margins tighter than a middle seat on a Ryanair flight, and the key to wooing customers is burning less fuel and packing in passengers.

It's also a small but crucial step in the plane's long march to certification. Airbus plans to have the A330-900neo fully certified for service by mid-2018, but first it must complete a rigorous testing regime that includes 1,100 hours in the air. Thursday's first flight was a calm affair, but things are about to get rough. Before any paying passengers can climb aboard, Airbus' test pilots will torture the new jet every way they know how. They'll fly through the planet's harshest climates, at temperature and altitude extremes. They'll push it as high and fast as it can go. They'll pilot it through brutal turbulence and see how it handles aborted takeoffs and landings.

And once they're sure this plane is ready to take off for real, they'll get back to developing the next answer to whatever Boeing's cooking up.


A330-900 SPECS

Key figures


 Range6 550 nm12 130 km

Typical seatingx287

 Max payload- lb x 1 000- tonnes

A330-900 Wing span Wing span210 ft 0 in64 m

A330-900 Overall length Overall length208 ft 10 in63.66 m

A330-900 Height Height55 ft 1 in16.79 m



Overall length

208 ft 10 in63.66 m

Cabin length

165 ft 3 in63.66 m

Fuselage width

18 ft 6 in5.64 m

Max cabin width

17 ft 3 in5.26 m

Wing span (geometric)

210 ft 0 in64 m


55 ft 1 in16.79 m


35 ft 1 in10.68 m


83 ft 4 in25.38 m


Highly-efficient operations

Operators of Airbus' A330neo – which is comprised of two versions, the A330-800neo and A330-900neo – will benefit from up to 400 nautical miles of additional range, as well as reductions in fuel burn and maintenance costs.

Building on the same dimensions as Airbus' proven A330-300, the A330-900neo version makes for an even more efficient and comfortable aircraft. 



Typical seating






LD3 capacity underfloor


Max pallet number underfloor

9 + 5 LD39 + 5 LD3

Bulk hold volume

695 ft³19.7 m³

Total volume (Bulk loading)

5 751 ft³162.80 m³




6 550 nm12 130 km



Max ramp weight

535.50 lb x 1000242.9 tonnes

Max take-off weight

533.50 lb x 1000242.0 tonnes

Max landing weight

421.08 lb x 1000191.0 tonnes

Max zero fuel weight

399.00 lb x 1000181.00 tonnes

Max fuel capacity

36 750 USG139 090 litres


Engines x2

RR Trent 7000

RR Trent 7000

Thrust range

72 000 lb slst- kN


Aircraft weights and capabilities shown are the highest values 
Ranges shown are for typical passenger load

Building on the proven success of its popular twin-aisle, twin-engine, widebody A330 Family, Airbus launched the A330neo jetliner – comprising the A330-800neo and A330-900neo – in July 2014. 

The A330neo Family delivers significant improvements in terms of efficiency while also launching the Airspace by Airbus cabin, which offers the newest and most advanced in-flight experience. 

Incorporating latest-generation Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, along with aerodynamic improvements – including new composite Sharklet wingtip devices that provide 3.7 metres of increased wing span – as well as increased lift and reduced drag the A330neo is a more efficient aircraft that will generate savings through reduced fuel burn. 

The longer-fuselage A330-900neo version can accommodate 287 seats in a typical three-class layout or up to 440 for high-density configurations, and can provide a range of 6,550 nautical miles. 

Airbus has developed a fast-paced 42-month programme from launch to first A330neo delivery, which is scheduled for the first quarter of 2018.


The A330neo is the launch vehicle for Airbus’ new cabin philosophy, meaning its passengers will be able to enjoy this truly beautiful, inspiring and relaxing living space. 

No detail has been spared when it comes to creating a comfortable environment for passengers that offers more space everywhere – with wide seats, a beautifully lit cabin and the latest generation in-flight entertainment, plus email and Wi-Fi capabilities. 

Whether it’s short, medium or long-haul, everyone can simply settle in and enjoy their flight with all the comfort and technology with which they are accustomed to on the ground.  

Utilising the state-of-the-art cabin developments implemented on the all-new A350 XWB and encompassing four key pillars – comfort, ambience, services and design – Airspace offers more personal space, a unique welcome area and Airbus’ signature design elements to transform the A330neo’s cabin into a true representation of luxury.





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