Why Did Airbus Build The A340?

Production of the four-engine Airbus A340 aircraft ended in 2011, and many airlines are now retiring much of…

Why Did Airbus Build The A340?

Production of the four-engine Airbus A340 aircraft ended in 2011, and many airlines are now retiring much of their fleet. The A340 was designed to get around restrictions on twin-engine operations at the time. But with improvements in this, airlines now only want quadjets where the extra power (and operating cost) is justified by higher capacity.

The A340 was developed mainly to get around twin-engine operation restrictions. Photo: Airbus

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Developing both the A330 and the A340

The development of the A340 dates back to the mid-1970s when Airbus was looking to improve its A300 aircraft. This was Airbus’s first aircraft and the first widebody twin-engine aircraft on the market.

Airbus faced a challenge, with some customers wanting to stick with a twin-engine aircraft, but others preferring the option of a four-engine widebody aircraft (quadjet). This would be less efficient, but allow more flexible operation of long haul flights. The solution was to develop both. Airbus designed the four-engine A340 alongside the twin-engine A330.

Speaking about the choice to develop both aircraft, Airbus vice president for strategic planning, Adam Brown, explained his views in reporting by FlightGlobal. He said:

“There was much internal debate whether to go with the big twin or the quad… North American operators were clearly in favor of a twin, while the Asians wanted a quad. In Europe, opinion was split between the two.

“The majority of potential customers were in favor of a quad despite the fact, in certain conditions, it is more costly to operate than a twin -they liked that it could be ferried with one engine out, and could ‘fly anywhere’ – remember ETOPS hadn’t begun then.”

A330 and A340
The A330 and A340 were designed together and share many components. Photo: Getty Images

Similarities in design

Developing the two aircraft together made a lot of sense at the time. They shared much in common, reducing development cost, and it gave airline customers the choice of which model worked best for them. The two aircraft have the same basic fuselage and wing design and share many structural components and systems, as well as the cockpit.

The main differences between the A330 and A340 are, of course, in the two or four-engine setup. The A340 also has a larger wing and an additional middle main landing gear. The extra landing gear helps in increasing the loads (fuel, cargo, or passengers) that the aircraft can carry, and also lessens the impact on the runway surface. Many other heavy aircraft use two gears, but increase the number of wheels to spread the load.

A340 middle landing gear
The A340 has an additional middle landing gear. Photo: Arpingstone via Wikimedia

Simple Flying took a look at the two aircraft previously, and compared passenger capacity and range. While the A340 offers higher capacity variants, and can more easily offer a three-class cabin, there are variants of each aircraft that come close in operating characteristics. The full family range can be summarised as:

  • A330-200: 246 passengers in two classes to a range of 7,250 nautical miles.
  • A340-500: 293 passengers in three classes to a range of 9,000 nautical miles.
  • A330-300: 300 passengers in two classes to a range of 6,350 nautical miles
  • A340-200: 303 passengers in two classes to a range of 7,600 nautical miles.
  • A340-300: 335 passengers in two classes to 7,150 nautical miles.
  • A340-600: 380 passengers in three classes to a range of 7,550 nautical miles.
Thai Airways
The A330-300 almost matches the smaller A340 variants in passenger capacity. Photo: Getty Images

Getting around ETOPS regulations

The main focus of the A340 was not to offer significantly higher passenger capacity. Airbus would, of course, do this later with the A380. The A340 was designed to allow for long haul overwater flights, at a time when twin-engine aircraft were restricted in this.

At the time of the launch of the A330 and A340, restrictions on twin-engine operations were much stricter than they are now. Since the 1980s, these have been set for each aircraft type using ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards). The first rating was given, in 1985, to Trans World Airlines flying a 767, with a rating of 120 minutes.  This means it could fly no more than 120 minutes flying time away from the nearest airport suitable for an emergency landing.

With four engines, of course, the A340 was exempt from these ETOPS regulations. This gave airlines the choice of the A330 or A340, depending on their planned operations and fleet size.

With four engines, the A340 was not subject to the same ETOPS regulations as the A330. Photo: Getty Images

Expansion in twin-engine operations

Since the launch of the A340, twin-engine aircraft performance and safety have continually improved. The A330neo now carries an ETOPS rating of 285 minutes. Newer aircraft have even higher ratings. The A350, for example, is rated to fly 370 minutes from a diversion airport.

This improvement has reduced the demand for four-engine aircraft. It may still make sense for larger and heavier airframes, but not so much for smaller aircraft like the A340.

Falling out of favor

The A340 was not an unsuccessful aircraft. It served a purpose at the time, but the situation has changed since then. You just have to look at future development to see this. The A340 ended production in 2011 and has been replaced by Airbus with the twin-engine A350. Its partner aircraft, the A330, continues in production with the new, more fuel-efficient, A330neo aircraft.

There are no airlines still operating the A340 in North America. It has remained popular though with several European airlines, but many are now retiring their fleets. Lufthansa was the largest remaining operator until the slowdown in aviation in 2020 led to it sending its fleet of 16 A340-600 aircraft into storage, with an uncertain future. Virgin Atlantic retired its last A340 in April 2020, having operated a fleet of up to 29 A340s since 1993.

Virgin A340
The last of the A340 fleet has left Virgin Atlantic. Photo: Getty Images

What do you think of the Airbus A340 aircraft? It may be on its way into retirement now, but it has been a popular aircraft with many people. Let us know in the comments.

Source : Simple Flying More   

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What Happened To Corsair’s Boeing 747 Aircraft?

For a relatively small airline, Corsair was a pretty prolific user of the Boeing 747 family of aircraft.…

What Happened To Corsair’s Boeing 747 Aircraft?

For a relatively small airline, Corsair was a pretty prolific user of the Boeing 747 family of aircraft. Over the course of 30 years, the airline operated 23 of the type across all five members of the product line, from the original -100 to the popular -400 and even the rare 747SP. Last March, as the pandemic bit, the airline took the decision to retire the last of its Queens. Let’s see what happened to all those aircraft.

The most recent retiree from Corsair was the 747-400, but it operated every single type of the family over the years. Photo: Getty Images

The 747-100

The first 747s to arrive at Corsair were the 747-100s. June 1991 saw the arrival of two, and over the next three years, another three arrived with the airline. The very first to arrive was an ex-Pan Am 747, which had also flown for Lionair and Air France before arriving with Corsair. Interestingly, after the aircraft was withdrawn from use in 1995, it got a repaint as fictional airline Oceanic and the fake registration N707CK in order to appear in the Kurt Russel and Steven Segal film ‘Executive Decision.’ You can watch the dramatic ‘landing’ of the plane in the clip below:

The rest of the -100s had less glamorous endings to their operational life. The second to arrive, F-GKLJ, was withdrawn in 2000 and stored at Chateauroux, where it was broken up two years later. F-BPVD was leased from Air France, and therefore returned to that airline when it was finished at Corsair. It was scrapped in 1994, broken up at Oklahoma City.

The other two were similarly withdrawn from use and scrapped. F-BPVE was scrapped in around 1998, while F-BPVG went on to work for Air Atlanta Icelandic for a couple of years after being withdrawn from the Corsair fleet, but was ultimately stored at Pinal Airpark in 1999 and scrapped in 2004.

Corsair 747-100
The -100s all left the fleet by the turn of the millennia. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

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The 747-200

Just like the -100s, Corsair operated five 747-200s over the years. The first arrived in 1992 as a 21-year-old aircraft. It had been taken new by KLM, spent time at Air Siam and Garuda Indonesia, and then joined the Corsair fleet in December that year. Details on when it was withdrawn are sketchy, but it was eventually broken up in March 2003 at Paris Orly Airport.

Another came by a similar route, KLM and Garuda, in February 1995. That one was scrapped at Chateauroux in 2002.

The final three were short-term leases to the airline, likely to provide capacity during busy summer periods. The first was CN-RME, a Royal Air Maroc aircraft that spent summer 1997 with Corsair before returning to its owner. It’s been stored since 2002.

Corsair 747-200
Some of the -200s were leased from British Airways. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

The other two were British aircraft. G-BDXE was a British Airways 747-200, transferred to European Aircharter in 2002 and leased by Corsair for the summer of 2005. It was broken up at Kemble in the UK in 2007. G-BDXF came by the same route, British Airways to European Aircharter, and was also leased to Corsair for summer 2005. In a similar trend, it was broken up at Kemble in 2006.

The 747-300

Six 747-300s flew for Corsair between 1997 and 2007. The first had flown for Singapore Airlines and Ansett Australia before arriving with Corsair. It stayed with the airline for seven years before joining the Air Atlanta Icelandic fleet.

Corsair 747-300
The 747-300s spent a decade with the airline. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

Interestingly, after being sent for storage at Kemble, the aircraft was transported by road from Gloucestershire to Herefordshire, causing quite a stir. Its destination was the Pontrilas Army Training Area, where it is now preserved as a SAS training aid.

747 relocation on M4
The move from Kemble to Herefordshire caused quite a stir on the motorway. Photo: Getty Images

The other five have all, over the years, been scrapped. Most stayed with Corsair for between three and five years, but all had arrived as older aircraft. As such, there was limited value left in the 747s by the time Corsair finished operating them.

The 747-400

The most recent members of the Corsair fleet were the 747-400s. Corsair operated six different aircraft over the span of 15 years. Just like the other Queens, these did not arrive with the airline new.

The first arrival was F-WSEX, which had flow with United Airlines from new in 1993. It moved to Corsair aged 12 in February 2005, and stayed there until it was withdrawn from use in 2011. It was stored at Victorville for two years but then, surprisingly, found a new home. It hopped over to Kano Airport to be operated on behalf of Ariana Afghan Airlines. It continued to fly until 2017.

Corsair 747-400
F-HSEX found a second life in Afghanistan. Photo: Eric Salard via Flickr

The next two similarly came from United Airlines as relatively old aircraft. Both flew for around seven years with the French airline before being withdrawn and eventually scrapped.

At the start of 2020, Corsair still had three 747-400s in its fleet. But as the pandemic bit, the airline prepared to wave goodbye to the last of its Queens. All three had been delivered new to United Airlines in 1992 and 1993, arriving at Corsair at around 12 years of age.

All three were withdrawn from use by the end of March 2020. As you can imagine, there’s not much of a second-hand market for 28-year-old 747s right now, so all are in storage at present.

F-HSEA and F-GTUI are both stored in the UK at Kemble. F-HSUN was at Kemble for a while, but was moved to Pinal Airpark in August 2020.

The SP

Corsair was one of a handful of airlines to operate the rare 747SP. With only 45 built, not many airlines can lay claim to operating the SP, but Corsair did for a total of eight years.

As with its other 747s, the SP was well used when it arrived at Corsair. It had been in service with South African Airways from new in 1976, and had spent almost 10 years at Royal Air Maroc since 1985. Aged 18, it arrived with Corsair in October 1994, where it operated to long-haul destinations including Bangkok and Los Angeles as well as closer routes to Helsinki and Mallorca.

Corsair 747SP
The 747SP was first built for South African Airways. Photo: Pedro Aragão via Wikimedia

According to 747SP.com, the aircraft suffered several incidents in its lifetime. In 1997, it hit a finger of the terminal at Paris Orly and was grounded for three days while a panel was replaced. In June 1999, it suffered a wingtip collision with a Philippine Airlines aircraft at Los Angeles International. The wing was severely damaged and the fuel tank was punctured, leading to a two-week grounding.

Finally, at the same airport in September 1999, it was heading to Tahiti from LAX when it entered a closed taxiway contrary to the ATC instructions. It struck several parked vehicles with its number four engine, including two tractor-trailer rigs and a pickup truck.

Corsair 747SP accident
The aircraft struck several vehicles on a closed taxiway. Photo: ICAO

Nevertheless, it was back in service a few weeks later, and continued to fly with Corsair until September 2002. It was ferried to Chateauroux for storage that year, but rather than being broken up, it is being preserved as an educational vehicle. The aircraft is used by GIGN – Groupe d’intervention de la Gendarmerie nationale (National Gendarmerie Intervention Group) for training exercises.

Corsair 747SP
F-GTOM in her final resting place. Photo: Alan Wilson via Flickr

Did you ever fly on any of Corsair’s 747s? Let us know in the comments!

Source : Simple Flying More   

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