By Aaron Karp,

US lessor CIT Group is pushing Airbus to make a decision “in the next six months” on whether to re-engine the A330 for a potential 2017 entry-into-service.

During a briefing at the ISTAT 2014 Americas conference in San Diego, CIT Transportation and International Finance president Jeff Knittel said the A330 has “historically been the star of our fleet” but is now “at a crossroads … Airbus will need to make some decisions on where they take that aircraft.”

CIT placed a firm order for 10 A330s valued at $2.3 billion at the 2012 Farnborough Airshow, bringing its total orders for the type to 41.

CIT Aerospace VP-aircraft analysis Steve Mason noted the A330 “is not selling as well as Airbus would like. The question now facing both [Airbus] and its customers is what options remain for the A330 and, for that matter, this entire [200-to-300 seat airliner] market … The key for Airbus is they move quickly.” An A330 re-engining “may be the best bang for the buck” for Airbus, Mason said, warning that A330 orders “will dwindle down” without a move such as a re-engining.

Airbus has acknowledged it is studying the so-called “A330neo” option, but has said little publicly about the potential program or its timing. “There is a lot of discussion on the A330neo, but not in Toulouse,” Airbus SVP-leasing markets Andrew Shankland told the ISTAT conference.

“We shouldn’t oversimplify what it takes to re-engine an airplane,” Knittel said. “The entire wing structure will have to be looked at … When [Airbus is] done with their analysis, you will get an answer [on the A330neo]. I would suggest they don’t know enough to know [yet whether to move forward]. It’s entirely possible they will see something from an engineering perspective that [reveals] this won’t work.” However, he cautioned, “If they wait too long, they will miss the window.”

Knittel would not commit to ordering a re-engined A330 if it is launched, but suggested CIT would be strongly interested. “I think there are a number of people that support an A330neo,” he said. “Certainly [Delta Air Lines CEO] Richard Anderson has been vocal about how a more efficient aircraft in that [midsize widebody] market would be welcomed by Delta … I think for a lot of [airlines] who are current operators of the A330, it would be a natural evolution to consider a neo.”

AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes last year called on Airbus to launch the A330neo, saying a re-engined A330 would have a 5% fuel burn advantage over the A350-800 on a 6,000 nautical mile mission.