Today marks 28 years since the first Airbus A330 took to the skies. The maiden flight, lasting over five hours, was the culmination of decades of research and design resulting in the A330-300 model.
The maiden flight of the A330
The first A330-300 plane was successfully completed on October 14th, 1992, before taking its maiden flight on November 2nd, 1992. The first flight lasted five hours and 15 minutes and measured height, speed and flight configuration, amongst other crucial data.
The aircraft weighed in at 181,840kg in total, which included 20,980kg of heavy test equipment needed for the maiden flight. Airbus’ test flight program was to involve six different aircraft flying for a total of 1,800 hours.
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An important milestone for aviation
At the time of flying, the A330-300 was the largest twin-engine aircraft ever to take to the skies, a position it held for two years until the Boeing 777-200. The A330 was developed primarily as a medium-range aircraft, but soon improvements in range allowed the plane to serve long-haul markets.
It took almost a year for the aircraft to be certified after undergoing rigorous testing. In October 1993, the A330 received its certifications from both the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA). In total, the A330 went through 426 test flights and 1,114 cumulative airborne test hours before being certified.
Entering into service in 1994
The first carrier to provide commercial flights with the A330 was Air Inter, a French domestic airline, in January 1994. Subsequently, Thai Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Malaysia Airlines received their A330s. After a drop in A330-300 sales and the success of the Boeing 767-300ER, Airbus rolled out the smaller A330-200 model, which offered improved operating efficiency and range.
A moment of tragedy struck early on in the life of the A330. On 30 June 1994, Airbus Industrie Flight 129 crashed, killing all seven onboard. The test flight, which aimed to measure aircraft performance during engine failure, didn’t reach sufficient speed during takeoff and began to roll before crashing into the ground.
A history of the A330
The development of the A330 was a significant milestone for Airbus, as its first “big twin” plane offering improved range and capacity on the A300B. The plane was developed concurrently with the A340 quad-engine aircraft as part of a program costing over $3.5bn. The vice president of strategic planning at the time, Adam Brown, explains Airbus’ approach,
“North American operators were clearly in favour of a twin, while the Asians wanted a quad. In Europe, opinion was split between the two.”
As of October 2020, Airbus has manufactured over 1,500 A330 planes and still has 300 orders to fulfill. The A330-300, the first model which conducted the maiden flight, accounts for approximately 54% of all A330s currently in service. The aircraft initially acquired an ETOPS-90 rating, which rose to an ETOPS-240 rating by 2009.
Where does the A330 rank in the pantheon of aircraft? Let us know in the comments.