Iberia Converts Passenger Aircraft into Mid-Air Refuelling Tanker

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.


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, José Luis Ruiz de Castañeda, 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.

Iberia Maintenance is responsible for maintaining the Iberia fleet and those of another 100 clients around the world. In 2010 it carried out a total of 122 C and D checks of aircraft, and inspected and repaired 200 engines and 53,587 aircraft components. It is the world's ninth-largest aircraft maintenance company. Last October it commissioned a new maintenance hangar at the Barcelona Airport.

About Iberia: It is Spain's largest air transportation group, and following its merger with British Airways in January, 2011, it is now Europe's third-largest and the world's sixth largest in terms of sales. In addition, Iberia is market leader on routes between Europe and Latin America, with the largest off offer of destinations and frequencies. Every day Iberia, its franchise partner Iberia Regional/Air Nostrum, and British Airways operate nearly 1,750 flights to 204 destinations in 121 countries. Together their fleets total 406 aircraft, and in 2010 they carried some 55 million passengers. For more information, please visit grupo.iberia.es.

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