The Airbus A330 is a medium wide-body twin-engine jet airliner made by Airbus, a division of Airbus Group. Versions of the A330 have a range of 7,400 to 13,430 kilometres (4,000 to 7,250 nmi) and can accommodate up to 335 passengers in a two-class layout or carry 70 tonnes (150,000 lb) of cargo.
The origin of the A330 dates to the 1970s as one of several conceived derivatives of Airbus’s first airliner, the A300. The A330 was developed in parallel with the four-engine A340, which shared many common airframe components but differed in number of engines. Both airliners incorporated fly-by-wire flight control technology, first introduced on an Airbus aircraft with the A320, as well as the A320’s six-display glass cockpit. In June 1987, after receiving orders from various customers, Airbus launched the A330 and A340. The A330 was Airbus’s first airliner that offered a choice of three engines: General Electric CF6, Pratt & Whitney PW4000, and Rolls-Royce Trent 700.
The A330-300, the first variant, took its maiden flight in November 1992 and entered passenger service with Air Inter in January 1994. Responding to dwindling sales, Airbus followed up with the slightly shorter A330-200 variant in 1998. Subsequently developed A330 variants include a dedicated freighter, the A330-200F, and a military tanker, the A330 MRTT. The A330 MRTT formed the basis of the proposed KC-45, entered into the US Air Force’s KC-X competition in conjunction with Northrop Grumman, where after an initial win, on appeal lost to Boeing’s tanker.
Since its launch, the A330 has allowed Airbus to expand market share in wide-body airliners. Airlines have selected the A330 as a replacement for less economical trijets. Competing twinjets include the Boeing 767 and 777, along with the 787, which entered service in late 2011. The long-range Airbus A350 XWB under development is positioned as a successor to both the A330 and A340. The current A330 (referred to as the A330ceo (current engine option) since 2014) is to be directly replaced by the A330neo, which includes new engines and other improvements. As of July 2014, orders for the A330 stands at 1,342, of which 1,106 have been delivered. The largest operator is Air China with 46 A330s in its fleet.