On 19 October 2017, Halldale Media's Chris Long witnessed the first Airbus A330neo take off at Blagnac in Toulouse, France for its maiden flight.

The aircraft, MSN1795, is an A330-900 powered by the latest Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 turbofan engines and the first of three certification flight-test aircraft to fly.

The crew in the cockpit on board the flight comprised of Experimental Test Pilots Thierry Bourges, Thomas Wilhelm and Test-Flight Engineer Alain Pourchet. Jean-Philippe Cottet, Emiliano Requena Esteban and Gert Wunderlich monitored the aircraft systems and performance in real-time at the flight-test-engineer’s (FTE) station.

Halldale Media’s Chris Long, who witnessed the flight, stated, “Discussion with Patricke du Che, Head of Flight and Integration Tests at Airbus, made clear that, in line with the broad philosophy of Airbus aircraft, commonality of handling feel and SOPs will mean that there will be minimal retraining necessary for current A330 crews to operate the A330neo.

“The challenge – managed with other Airbus fly-by-wire aircraft, is to adapt the aircraft and software to match the feel of existing fleets. As an example, for instance, Cathay Pacific has crews who routinely operate both the A350 and the A330ceo. The addition of the A330neo will hardly impact on that capability, and will allow smooth integration of that type into the rostering rostering of the existing crews.”

The A330neo’s certification development programme itself will last around 1,400 flight-test hours. This will comprise 1,100 flight hours for the A330-900 campaign – to achieve its respective EASA and FAA Type Certification around the middle of 2018; plus 300 flight hours for A330-800 version – which will be certified in 2019.