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Airbus A340

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Airbus A340
Lufthansa A340-600
Type Airliner
Manufacturer Airbus S.A.S.
Maiden flight 1991-10-25
Introduced March 1993 with Lufthansa and Air France
Primary users Lufthansa (43)
Iberia Airlines (31)
Virgin Atlantic Airways (25)
Air France (19)
Number built 338
Unit cost A340-200 $87,000,000 (1989) A340-300 $171,000,000 (2006) A340-500 $198,000,000 (2006) A340-600 $218,000,000 (2006)
Developed from Airbus A300
Variants Airbus A330

The Airbus A340 is a long-range four-engined widebody commercial passenger airliner manufactured by Airbus S.A.S. a subsidiary of EADS. It is similar in design to the twin-engined A330.


The first published studies for the A340 were as the TA11 in 1981, as shown in the November issue of Air International (coinciding with the display of the A300 at that year's Farnborough Air Show). Concept drawings of the A320 (SA 9) and A330 (TA10) were also published, along with estimated performance figures by Airbus Industrie.

BWIA Airbus A340-300, 9Y-TJN, in 2002.

The A340 was launched in June 1987 as a long-range complement to the short-range A320 and the medium-range A300. At the time, Airbus's twinjets were at a disadvantage against aircraft such as the Boeing 747 because of the ETOPS problem: two-engined aircraft had to stay within close range of emergency airfields to allow for engine malfunction. The A340 was designed in parallel with the twin-engined A330: both aircraft share the same wing and similar fuselage structure, and borrow heavily from the advanced avionics developed for the A320. Both the A330 and A340 are assembled on the same final assembly line at Toulouse-Blagnac, France. The four-engined A340 is able to fly long over-water routes. Because of its ETOPS-immunity, Virgin Atlantic Airways used the motto "4 Engines 4 Long Haul," on its A340 fleet.

Air Jamaica A340-300

It was originally intended to use the new superfan engines of IAE (International Aero Engines) in the A340 but IAE decided to stop their development and the CFMI CFM56-5C4 was used instead. When the A340 first flew in 1991, engineers noticed a potentially major design flaw in the first model: the wings were not strong enough to carry the outboard engines at cruising speed without warping and fluttering. To alleviate this, an underwing bulge called the plastron, named after the undershell of a tortoise, was developed to correct airflow problems around the engine pylons. The modified A340 began commercial service in 1993 with Lufthansa and Air France.

The A340 incorporates high-technology features such as fully digital fly-by-wire flight control system. It also uses a sidestick controller instead of normal control columns. There is one 'joystick' to the left of the pilot and one to the right of the co-pilot. The A340, as with all Airbus planes, employs a common pilot rating, specially with the two-engined A330. The cockpit also features CRT-based glass cockpit displays on the A340-200 and A340-300 and LCD-based on -500 and -600. Some composite primary structures are also used.

A340-600 at the Farnborough Air Show, 2006.

When fuel costs rose, airlines began looking at the Boeing 777 as an alternative to the A340. As the years went by, orders for the 777 rose, while orders for the A340 began diminishing. It can be argued that, with modern engines having extremely low failure rates (as seen in the ETOPS certification of most twinjets) and increased power output, four engines are no longer necessary except for very large aircraft, such as the Airbus A380 or Boeing 747. In 2005, Airbus had only 15 orders for the A340.

In January 2006, Airbus announced plans to develop an enhanced version of the A340, dubbed the A340E; where E stands for enhanced, because of disappointing sales in the wake of newer longer range Boeing 777s in 2005, and the rise in fuel costs that have justified twin-engine planes as being more economical to operate than four engine planes. Airbus claims that the enhanced A340 will be more fuel-efficient than earlier A340s and will allow the model to compete more effectively with the Boeing 777. When this possible model will be developed has yet to be determined.


There are four variants of the A340 and launched on two separate occasions. The A340-200 and A340-300 were launched in 1987 with introduction into service in March 1993. The A340-500 and A340-600 were launched in 1997 with introduction into service in 2002.


One of two initial versions of the A340, the A340-200, with 261 passengers in a three-class cabin layout has a range of 7,450 nautical miles (13,800 km). This is the shortest version of the type and the only version with wingspan measuring greater than the length of the plane. It is powered by four CFMI CFM56-5C engines. The plane's range was one of the longest of the time and it was intended to open long and thin routes, especially over water.

One version of this type was ordered by the Sultan of Brunei requesting for a non-stop range of 8,000 nautical miles. This A340-8000 had an increase in fuel capacity, a MTOW of 275 tonnes similar to the A340-300, and minor reinforcements to the undercarriage. Upon completion its final range was specified at 8,100 nautical miles (15,000 km) . It is powered by the 34,000 lbf (151 kN) thrust CFMI CFM56-5C4s similar to the -300E.

Other A340-200s were later given performance improvement packages (PIPs) which helped them achieve similar gains in capability as to the A340-8000. Those aircraft are labeled A340-213X. The range for this version is 8,000 nm (14,800 km).

Due to its large wingspan, four engines, low capacity, and improvements to the A340-300, the 200 proved heavy and unpopular with mainstream airlines. Only 28 A340-200s were produced with several now in VIP service. South African Airways is the largest operator with 6 flying mostly on Cape Town routes. This version is out of production.


The A340-300 flies 295 passengers in a typical three-class cabin layout over 6,700 nautical miles (12,400 km). This is the initial version, having flown on 25 October 1991, and entered service with Lufthansa and Air France in March 1993. It is powered by four CFMI CFM56-5C engines, similar to the -200.

The A340-313X is a heavyweight version of the A340, and was first delivered to Singapore Airlines in April 1996, though Singapore Airlines no longer operates this model.

The A340-313E is the latest version of this type and was first delivered to Swiss International in 2003. It has a MTOW of 276.5 tonnes with typical range with 295 passengers of between 7,200 and 7,400 nautical miles (13,300 km and 13,700 km). It is powered by the more powerful 34,000 lbf (151 kN) thrust CFMI CFM56-5C4s.

This model is still in production with 219 orders to date of which 211 have been delivered. The largest operator of this type is Lufthansa with 30.

The direct Boeing equivalent is the 777-200ER.


Qatar Airways A340-500 in Munich

The A340-500 was introduced as the world's longest-range commercial airliner. It made its first flight on 11 February 2002, and was certified on 3 December 2002 with early deliveries to Emirates. While the KC-10 Extender is the longest-ranged production aircraft, the A340-500 was the world's longest-range commercial airliner, until the introduction of the Boeing 777-200LR "Worldliner" in early 2006. The A340-500 can fly 313 passengers in a three-class cabin layout over 8,650 nautical miles (16,000 km). Singapore Airlines, for example, uses this model for its Newark-Singapore nonstop route, an 18-hour, 15,345 km (8,285 nm) journey that is the longest non-stop scheduled commercial flight in the world[1]; the airline does this with a 181 passengers, 2 class layout, and trading payload capacity for extra fuel tanks. The A340-500 is capable of travelling non-stop from London to Perth, Australia, though a return flight requires a fuel stop due to headwinds[2]. Also, Thai Airways International flies this model for its non-stop flights from Bangkok to Los Angeles and Bangkok to New York, while Air Canada flies this model for its non-stop flights from Toronto to Hong Kong.

Compared with the A340-300, the -500 features a 3.3 m fuselage stretch, an enlarged wing area, massive increase in fuel capacity (around 50% over -300), slightly higher cruising speed, larger horizontal stabilizer and smaller vertical tailplane. The A340-500/-600 has taxi cameras to help the pilots during ground maneuvers. The A340-500 is powered by four 53,000 lbf (236 kN) thrust Rolls-Royce Trent 553 turbofans.

The A340-500HGW (High Gross Weight) version with a range of 9,000 nm (16,700 km) and an MTOW of 380 tonnes is due to enter service in 2007 with Thai Airways International. It will use the strengthened structure and enlarged fuel capacity of the A340-600HGW. Kingfisher Airlines plan to use this model to operate the first nonstop flights from India to the United States.[3] The A340-500HGW is powered by four 56,000 lbf (249 kN) thrust Rolls-Royce Trent 556 turbofans.

The direct Boeing equivalent is the 777-200LR, which entered service in February 2006.


Designed as an early-generation Boeing 747 replacement, the A340-600 flies 380 passengers in a three-class cabin layout (419 in 2 class) over 7,500 nautical miles (13,900 km). It provides similar passenger capacity to a 747 but with twice the cargo volume, and at lower trip and seat costs. First flight of the A340-600 was made on 23 April 2001. Virgin Atlantic began commercial services in August 2002.

Qatar Airways A340-600HGW landing in Toulouse.
Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340-600 landing

The A340-600 is more than 10 m longer than a basic -300, making it the longest airliner in the world, more than four metres longer than Boeing's 747-400 (but will be 1.1 meter shorter than the upcoming 747-8). It is powered by four 56,000 lbf (249 kN) thrust Rolls-Royce Trent 556 turbofans. It also has an additional four-wheel undercarriage on the fuselage center-line to cope with the increased MTOW.

The initial seven A340-600 aircraft were delivered with overweight wings. After the A340-600 launch customer, Virgin Atlantic, elected to receive replacement aircraft, these airframes were delivered at a reduced price to Iberia Airlines and Cathay Pacific. Cathay Pacific uses the plane on its nonstop service between Hong Kong and New York City (JFK).

The A340-600HGW (High Gross Weight) version first flew on 18 November 2005[4] and was certified on 14 April, 2006.[5] It has an MTOW of 380 tonnes and a range of up to 7,900 nm (14,600 km), made possible by strengthened structure, increased fuel, more powerful engines and new manufacturing techniques like laser beam welding. The A340-600HGW is powered by four 60,000 lbf (267 kN) thrust Rolls-Royce Trent 560 turbofans.

Emirates became the launch customer for the -600HGW when it ordered 18 at the 2003 Paris Air Show[6]; but postponed their order indefinitely in order to wait for Airbus' future plans for the A340 range to be made clear. This order was ultimately cancelled. Rival Qatar Airways, which placed its order at the same airshow, took delivery of the first aircraft on 11 September 2006.[7]

The direct Boeing equivalent is the 777-300ER.


A340-200 A340-300 A340-500 A340-600
Wingspan 60.30 m
197 ft 1 in
60.31 m
197 ft 10 in
63.45 m
208 ft 2 in
Wing sweep 30° 31.1°
Length 59.39 m
194 ft 10 in
63.60 m
208 ft 10 in
67.90 m
222 ft 8 in
75.30 m
246 ft 11 in
Height 16.70 m
54 ft 9 in
16.85 m
55 ft 3 in
17.10 m
56 ft 1 in
17.30 m
56 ft 9 in
Wheelbase 23.24 m
76 ft 3 in
25.60 m
84 ft 0 in
27.59 m
90 ft 6 in
32.89 m
107 ft 11 in
Typical cruise speed Mach 0.82 (875 km/h, 544 mph) Mach 0.83 (885 km/h, 550 mph)
Maximum cruise speed Mach 0.86 (917 km/h, 570 mph) Mach 0.86 (917 km/h, 570 mph)
Operating range 14,800 km
9,196 mi
13,700 km
8,513 mi
16,700 km
10,377 mi
14,600 km
9,072 mi
Empty Weight 129,000 kg
284,396 lb
129,275 kg
295,503 lb
170,400 kg
375,668 lb
177,000 kg
390,218 lb
Service Ceiling 11,887 m
38,999 ft
Fuel Capacity 155,040 L
40,957 Gal
140,640 L
37,153 Gal
222,000 L
58,646 Gal
204,500 L
54,023 Gal
Engine Options 4x CFM56-5C2 (138.78kN)
4x CFM56-5C3 (144.57kN)
4x CFM56-5C4 (151.25kN)
4x CFM56-5C2 (138.78kN)
4x CFM56-5C3 (144.57kN)
4x CFM56-5C4 (151.25kN)
4x CFM56-5C4P (149.9kN)
4x Trent 553 (236kN) 4x Trent 556 (249kN)
Passengers (3 classes) 239 295 313 380
Cockpit Crew 2 2 2 2
Takeoff run at MTOW 2,990 meters 3,000 meters 3,050 meters 3,100 meters
ULD Capacity 18 LD3s/6 pallets 32 LD3s/11 pallets 30 LD3s/10 pallets 42 LD3s/14 pallets

Sources:  [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

A340 deliveries

By the end of January 2007 a total of 400 A340s had been ordered and 338 delivered.

2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991
2 24 24 28 33 16 22 19 20 24 33 28 19 25 22 0 0


As at 11 December 2005:

Hull loss accidents The A340 has not had a fatal incident to date, but it has suffered two hull-loss accidents:

  • Air France A340-211 (F-GNIA): On January 20 1994, an Air France A340-211 (F-GNIA) was lost to fire during servicing at CDG.
  • Air France Flight 358: On 2 August 2005, all 297 passengers and 12 crew survived a crash and fire after their A340-300 (F-GLZQ) overshot runway 24L at Toronto Pearson International Airport in a thunderstorm. The aircraft slid into Etobicoke Creek and broke up. Forty-three were injured, some seriously because some of the emergency slides did not operate properly. This forced some passengers to jump nearly 20 ft (6 m) to the ground.

Other incidents

  • An A340-311 of Virgin Atlantic Airways was forced to land with the right main gear retracted on 5 November 1997 at London Heathrow Airport. When landing, the left main gear collapsed. All 100 passengers were unharmed and the aircraft was repaired within 28 days.
  • The landing gear of an A340-211 of Sabena collapsed during landing at Brussels Airport on 29 August 1998. The right horizontal stabilizer was destroyed.
  • An A340-312 of SriLankan Airlines was destroyed on the ground by Tamil Tiger guerillas on 24 July 2001 at Colombo-Bandaranayake IAP, Sri Lanka, along with 2 A330s and a squadron of military aircraft.
  • An A340-313X of Emirates ran off the runway when taking off from Johannesburg International Airport on 9 April 2004. Both pilots were unfamiliar with this heavier variant of the Airbus. At the call to rotate, the pilot flying pulled back on the stick. However, according to a report by the airline, "for approximately six or seven seconds the aircraft nose did not move upward"[13]. The nose finally came up, but the aircraft still did not become airborne. The crew felt a rumbling, selected full power, and about two seconds later the aircraft lifted off the ground[14]. The airport says 25 runway threshold and approach lights, and part of the runway surface, were damaged as the aircraft went over the end of 21R. The pilot had received ambiguous instructions regarding rotation technique during his transition training. Emirates Training establishment was censured by Airbus after an investigation.
  • An A340-600 of China Eastern Airlines burst all main landing gears during landing at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. None of the passengers suffered any injuries.


  • The A340-200 and A340-500 were the longest-ranged airliners in the world when they were first released.
  • The A340-600 is the longest passenger airliner in the world at 75.30 m (246 ft, 11 in). It will be surpassed by the 76.4-m long Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental once it enters service.
  • The longest regular schedule non-stop flight, Singapore Flight 21 from Newark, New Jersey, USA to Singapore, uses an Airbus A340-500 aircraft. The flight is scheduled for 18 hours, 40 minutes.

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