Today the Airbus A340 made its first flight on this day 27 years ago.
As the Airbus A340 hits 27 years we are going to look back at the iconic 4 engine widebody aircraft.
Firstly for it’s design we have to go back to 1969 as Airbus had just announced the A300. This was Airbus’s and the worlds twin engine wide-body aircraft. Furthermore the A300 was smaller and lighter than it’s rivals. Airbus had envisioned to have a family of airliners that would cover the entire industry.
Furthermore the A300 was number coded to mark the various models as A300B1 through to A300B9. Secondly the A300B9 was intended to replaced the Douglas DC10 and Lockheed L1011 tri-jets. Later Airbus Developed the A300B11 this time targeting the Douglas DC8 and Boeing 707.
In addition as the A300B9 & B11 were twin aisle aircraft the designation were to be changed to TA(twin aisle)9 and TA11. The designations were later reversed but it made sense that a 4 engine variant carried a number 4 in its designation, So the Airbus A340 came into existance.
27th January 1986 marked the official change from of the re-designation of the TA11 to become the A340. Airbus then began to ask airlines for interest in becoming the launch customer.
The First Airbus A340-200 was delivered to Lufthansa on 2nd February 1993 and entered service on 15th March 1993. The 228 seater was named Nürnberg.
The Airbus A340-200 boasted an incredible range of 7,600 nautical miles (14,100km). Furthermore a seating capacity of 261 in a 3 class configuration or 303 in a 2 class cabin (30F & 273Y). In addition the exit limit was 420 (with 4 type A doors) or 375 so far we haven’t seen any airline use the A340 at its exit limit.
Secondly the A340-200 measured at 59.36m in length falling short of the Boeing 747 which measured 70.66m at the time. The wingspan of the A340-200 measure 60.3m a fraction longer than the 747.
Finally to power the A340-200 was 4 CFM international CFM56-5C capable of delivering up to 34,000lbs of thrust each.
Further design varients
Airbus continued to develop newer variants of the A340 starting with the A340-200 the developing on into the -300, -500 & -600 variants.
The A340-500 when it was introduced was the worlds longest range commercial airliner. Due to an incredible range for the time period of 9,000 nautical miles (17,000km). The -500 variant beat the Boeing 777-200LR which had a range of 8,555 nautical miles.
The -500 variant is capable of flying from London to Perth non stop which back in 2002 when the first -500 variant flew this was impressive but now is an every day flight for flight QF10.
In addition the -600 variant broke a record of it’s own for being the longest commercial aircraft at 75.36m it held this record until the release of the Boeing 747-800.
End of production
On November 10th 2011 Airbus announced the end of the A340 program. At the time Airbus said all firm orders had been delivered. Yet a further 2 A340-500 where delivered in 2012.
The end of production was a slow road for the A340 but was to be expected as in 2005, 155 Boeing 777’s were ordered in comparison to 15 A340’s. Consequently this was due to the A340 being too heavy and significantly less fuel efficient in comparison to the Boeing 777.
Twin Engine ETOPS restrictions were overcome by lower operating costs compared to quad jets.
Furthermore this is why the Boeing 747 is now less favored over more modern fuel efficient twin jets.
In conclusion the A340 was very successful in its introduction as a long range aircraft but its lifespan was cut short by huge developments in aviation technology. Finally the A340 production spanned 20 years with a total of 380 built.