The passenger airliner market is lucrative business and typically involves two industry heavyweights - Boeing and Airbus. Airbus' first entry ever became their successful A300 line which eventually produced offshoots in the A320, A330, and A340 models. The A330 joined the Airbus stable during the 1990s as a wide-body, twin-engine passenger hauler/freight mover and was formally introduced on January 17th, 1994 with launch customer Air Inter. Since then, the model has seen orders reach over 1,350 aircraft with over 1,100 having been fulfilled to date (2015). Production has been ongoing since 1992 and now includes three major variants - the A330-200, the A330-200F ("Freight"), and the A330-300. The A330 follows the A320 and A340 by bringing along with it industry staples such as Fly-By-Wire (FBW) controlling and glass cockpits for the crew of two. First flight of an A330 was on November 2nd, 1992 and the product competes directly with the 767, 777, and 787 models offered by rival Boeing.
The A330-200 is offered in two primary seat configurations, a 2-class seating 293 and a 3-class seating 253. The A330-200F, a cargo hauler by design, features seating for just twelve as the rest of its internal space is reserved for freight. The A330-300 has a 2-class arrangement seating 335 and a 3-class arrangement seating 295. The A330-200 and A300-200F models share an overall length of 193 feet while the A330-300 is increased to 209 feet. All share the same 197.9 foot wingspan. The aircraft is offered with three possible engines - 2 x General Electric CF6-80E1 turbofans of 72,000lbf thrust, 2 x Pratt & Whitney PW4000 turbofans of 70,000lbf thrust, or 2 x Rolls-Royce Trent 700 turbofans of 71,000lbf thrust - to help broaden the product's market appeal. Performance numbers include a maximum speed of 915 kmh, a cruising speed of 870 kmh, a range out to 13,400 kilometers, and a service ceiling of 42,650 feet. The A330-200F-model sees range reduced to 6,000 kilometers while the A330-300 follows with a 11,300 kilometer overall range.
Airbus A330 series aircraft operators range from Argentina and Algeria to Ukraine and Yemen. Its largest supporter remains Air China with nearly fifty of the type making up its stock. The A330 line also makes up the A330 MRTT ("Multi-Role Tanker Transport"), a combination airframe used by several militaries for aerial refueling missions as well as general transport sorties. The A330 also served as the basis for the now-abandoned Airbus submission to the USAF's tanker program ("KC-X") - as the "KC-45" (detailed elsewhere on this site). The product was represented in the United States under a joint Northrop Grumman/EADS endeavor and was initially selected for adoption. The submission lost out to the Boeing KC-46 "Pegasus" (detailed elsewhere on this site) after a protested selection process.
The "oversized parts" handler, the A300-600St "Beluga" - will see its replacement formed from the existing A330 airframe.
As with any other passenger hauler, the A330 series has seen its share of accidents and fatalities. At least nineteen major events involving the line have been recorded with some 339 total lives lost.
The A330neo is in development to succeed the standard A330 product (and compete directly with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner line). This mark features solely Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines (2x), an increased wingspan, winglets for efficiency and other refinements. A first flight is expected to be undertaken in the middle of 2016 with formal model introduction to come during the latter half of 2017.