On July 6th Airbus brought their -900 from Chicago to Atlanta.  We were invited by Airbus to join this flight to see how the aircraft feels as a passenger.  The first image is of the aircraft as we walked up to it at the O’Hare location. One is aware the aircraft looks a lot like the A350 – the windows and have the “treatment”.

Here are two more shots from the parking space prior to departure.

The aircraft looks like an A330 – yet it looks much sleeker.  Besides the aforementioned treatment, those new engines (Trent 7000) are very big with a diameter of 112 inches.  This compares to 97.4 inches on the Trent 700. The 7000 offers a 10% improved fuel burn.  The new engine a bypass ratio of 10 compared to 5.  The two engines have equivalent thrust.

Onboard we saw the monitoring station where crews watch everything the aircraft does inflight.

The rest of the cabin is set up for service. The aircraft had WiFi, but we could not get it to work, while others did manage to do this.

Here is our last shot of the aircraft on the ramp in Atlanta. Notice the sweep of that wing. It is 4m longer than on the A330ceo.

Airbus provided this chart to explain what they have done to the wing.  It is clear that this wing and the new engine are at the heart of the neo’s better economics.  For example, the A330neo wing is so good that Airbus will not add a larger “sharklet” as they are doing on the A350.

In terms of the flight experience, the A330neo seems quieter inflight. We managed to get two interviews with Airbus officials to talk about the aircraft and the cabin.  The two Airbus officials were asked a simple open-ended question about what to look for on the aircraft.

The previous day to the A330neo flight, we were on another A330. This was a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on a 15-year old -300.

As you can see from number, this was originally a Northwest aircraft and delivered in October 2003.  It P&W PW4000 power.

We recorded the takeoff in Amsterdam and then made a similar recording in Chicago.  The comparisons are unscientific because loads (and several other factors) were different.  The A330neo had hardly any load at all, and the -300 was heavy.  The Chicago takeoff was reminiscent of a sporty 757 takeoff.  The Amsterdam takeoff was not sporty at all.

Our overall impression was that the A330neo advantages over the earlier models.  The cabin is much quieter.  It has more light and the lighting is the latest LED magic show capable type.  The crew can mimic the light you need to adjust, which will be important on a long haul flight.  The seating on the test flight is as designed by the airline and not reflective of anything we can compare with.  The eight media people all seemed positive about the cabin overall.  There was a general consensus the economy seat looks and feels good.  There was less excitement about the premium class Recaro seat, which seemed tight in terms of access and egress.

Airlines that fly the A330ceo are natural targets for the neo.  Airlines flying the are also natural targets because the A330 as a platform offers state of the art interior and class-leading economics.  The combination of a state of the art engine and wing should provide the A330neo with excellent economics combined with a low-risk option for airlines wanting the latest and greatest without having to pay a big premium.

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