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There’s a new airplane in the sky as of this week. Well, strictly speaking, not a new new airplane, but a new (and much improved) version of a tried and true workhorse that you have very likely flown if you are a frequent traveler: the Airbus A330. On October 19, the European company flew for the first time its A330-900neo, the latest iteration of its biggest-selling widebody aircraft. The 4-hour flight was a success, according to Airbus, which filmed the event from many angles.

In this video, the signs that differentiate the neo from other A330s are evident: you can tell it’s a neo first and foremost by the huge engines, two Rolls Royce Trent turbofans that will help cut fuel consumption by around 20% compared to today’s A330-300. (Neo means “new engine option.”) Another dead giveaway is the new wing, redesigned to allow longer cruising with lower fuel burn and with telltale blended winglets at each end. The current -200 and -300 models have winglets that rise abruptly from the wing at a sharp angle. They do the same job — separating the flow of air over the wing from that under the wing, eliminating vortices at the wingtip that create drag and therefore fuel burn — but the new ones do so far more stylishly and efficiently.

The neos also feature a cute (or tacky, depending on your aesthetics) “bandit mask” black contour around the cockpit windows, borrowed from the A350. This does nothing for fuel burn, but does look unique and may cut down on glare.

Because it’s not really a new plane but a version of an existing one, the certification process won’t be as long, and the first neos will enter service in just about a year, with TAP Portugal. US-based fliers will have to wait a bit longer to fly on one: Delta has ordered 25 for delivery beginning in 2019, and it’s likely you’ll see them on routes to Europe in place of the Boeing 767-300. It’s going to be quite an upgrade, with redesigned interiors compared to Delta’s A330-300s, a true premium economy section and at least 20% more seat capacity than the 767.

The smaller -800neo, which has not flown yet, is not quite the same commercial success as the -900. While the latter has racked up orders for more than 200 so far, the 800 has only one customer: Hawaiian Airlines, which has bought six to launch direct flights between Europe and Hawaii. That’s a testament to the long legs that the new Rolls engines give the neo, which can fly nonstop with a full load for more than 8,600 miles, or 13,900 km.

Featured image by Airbus.

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