Iberia has converted an Airbus A330-200 passenger airliner into a Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), equipped for mid-air refuelling. It was the first time such a complex task has been performed in Spain, where Iberia maintenance and engineering teams completed it in a record 16 months.
After yesterday's final flight test, the aircraft, belonging to the Saudi Arabian air force, was delivered by Iberia to Airbus Military.
The aircraft was flown in November, 2009 from the Airbus plant in Toulouse, France to Iberia's Madrid maintenance installations, where it was equipped to carry fuel, and deliver it in mid-air to other aircraft, and also to receive fuel from other tankers in flight. Hose and funnel mid-air refuelling systems were installed on both wings and on the fuselage along with a fly-by-wire control device. First the aircraft was disassembled to allow structural modifications to be made, followed by functional tests both on the ground and in the air. The transformation of the A330 into an MRTT was completed with the configuration of the interior.
Iberia's engineers and technicians spent 140,000 man-hours on the conversion of the A330, during which they modified 5,500 system components, making structural changes to 2,000 parts. An additional 58.5 km. of wiring was installed, including 1,000 metres each of coaxial cable and fibre optic cable.
The collaboration agreement between Iberia Maintenance and Airbus Military to convert civilian aircraft into MRTTs reflects the Spanish company's strategy of reorienting its maintenance business towards technologically challenging and high value-added activities. Iberia's EVP Maintenance and Engineering, Jose Luis Ruiz de Castaneda, said: "it is a great satisfaction for us to have successfully completed a project which is certainly the biggest challenge we have ever faced in the transformation of aircraft".
Iberia has more than 20 years of experience in the maintenance of military aircraft. In addition to the inspection and repair of the Pegasus engines used in Harrier VTOL fighters, it maintains Boeing 707s and P3-Orion sea rescue craft for the Spanish armed forces. It has also serviced the aircraft used by the heads of state of such countries as Argentina and Turkmenistan.
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