Could Airbus Build An A300neo To Compete With The 797?

Earlier this week we discussed how Airbus had already built a rival to the upcoming Boeing 797 before, the A300.

Some readers asked if the A300 was so successful and airlines are demanding a New Midsize Airplane… why doesn’t’ Airbus simply build a new version, the A300neo?

The A300 is a very old design and thus a new version of it would be far more than just new engines. It would involve a complete overhaul and likely not a single original design idea would exist in the final version.

A300neo
Could this be the look of an Airbus A300neo? Photo: Simpleflying.com / Wikimedia

What would the A300neo be?

The original A300 could carry 266 passengers and fly 4,000 nautical miles. It was in production for over 35 years, with the final one rolling off the line in 2007 for FedEx (a freight variant). Airbus has said that they will contuine to support the aircraft until 2025.

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An A300neo version of the aircraft would possibly follow the trend of more passengers and more range. We would likely see an increase up to 5-6,000 nautical miles and up to 300 passengers in a max seating configuration. But with two-classes, we would see 250 economy (in a 3-3-3 configuration) and 40 business class seats. Whether or not they would be lie-flat would depend on the airline’s configuration. The aircraft would be twin-aisled.

A330 lie flat business class
Hawaiian’s A330 has lie-flat seating in the premium cabin. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines

It would be made of a composite structure to save weight, and feature winglets on the end of its wings. For the passenger experience, Airbus would have better humidity in the cabin, quieter engines, bigger overhead bins and better control surfaces for pilots (and let us not forget, reconfiguring the plane for two pilots instead of three). In fact, it would be almost impossible to list all the new features required because the plane would essentially be a total rebuild.

For comparison’s sake, the Boeing 797 carries 225-275 passengers and will fly around 5,000 nautical miles.

In this fantasy, Airbus would build two versions (following the pattern of the A350 and A330neo), one smaller but with a better range and a bigger one with more capacity but flying a shorter distance.

Could it actually exist?

Despite all the above hope and conjecture… it is very unlikely.

The first problem is that Airbus already has an aircraft that performs the A300neo role, and that’s the A330-800neo.

With 257 passengers and a range of 8,150nmi / 15,094km, it is more than capable of filling the role of an A300neo. In fact, according to Airbus, it already has by being the rival to the Boeing 797.

At the bottom end of the market is the A321neo. This aircraft can carry up to 240 passengers in a dense economy configuration, and fly 4,000 nautical miles. Airbus is already in dangerous territory with its A319 and A220 lines, they would be sure not to repeat it with an A300neo and A330-800neo / A321neo.

Air Mauritius
Air Mauritius recently took ownership of an A330-900neo. Photo: Air Mauritius

Additionally, Airbus has shut down the assembly line of the A300 for over 10 years, and the design is ancient. The amount of effort that would be required would be astronomical

Airbus is already leveraged with A350, A330neo and A220 production. They simply can’t build the factories fast enough to meet the current demand, let alone introduce a new product. Plus Airbus is still managing the shut down of the A380 line over the next few years.

But the last point is the most somber. Many point to the 737 MAX 8 disaster as a reason why old designs should never be considered. The aircraft involved in the terrible accidents in the last six months is the fourth generation of a 60-year-old old design. Boeing stuck to this ‘vintage’ craft as to prevent pilots from having to retrain… but at a terrible cost.

Could the A300neo give the Boeing 797 a run for its money? Most definitely. But it would cost Airbus everything they have to build it.

What do you think? Is there room for an A300neo?

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Kaden

How about A330-8 vs what we know about the 797?

James Mahon

The A330-800 Neo has too much range, and is thus too heavy and expensive. The A330 family has the same fuselage diameter as the A300, but is abut 20 years newer. If you further shrunk the -800 to a -700, you would have huge wings, so you might want to shorten them and use smaller engines. A better approach might be to make a longer A321 (call it an A322) with say 3.2m stretch allowing 4 more rows of seats, or 32″ pitch for economy long haul seating. Then, you would want more fuel (to get to 4800 nm) and… Read more »

Vince

Creating the A322 may be technically more challenging than shrinking the A330-800. However the main bottleneck with the NMA for both Boeing and Airbus is the engine manufacturer. Neither GE, PW or RR are able to offer a significantly better engine than the engines available today to power the NMA.

Gary Marsh

In production for 50 years that would mean it beat the Boeing 707 into service. I think not.

Arturo Figgissini

The A300 was in production for 36 years, not 50, from 1971-2007.

Tony Pearce

What this all means is Airbus is in a strong position product-wise to take on Boeing at the moment and into the near future. The A220, A320, A321, A330 and A350 are all good planes. The pity is that all these and Boeing designs are improvements of pretty much existing designs and the BIG step forward in clean sheet design is being pretty much ignored by both companies. I can’t blame them for being risk-averse given the problems both have experienced bringing new designs to the market. So who’s working on the ‘Beam me up Scotty’ technology at the moment?… Read more »

Joe

A220 was clean sheet (Bombardier). The others not so much.

Clean sheet design pushes out costs for manufacturer by orders of magnitude which of course are passed on to airlines in the list price, plus more teething problems are present which can damage manufacturers reputation.

Refinement or existing designs will always be preferred approach over “big leaps”. At least while a duopoly exists.

James

Airbus engineer here, I agree that while it’s possible, it doesn’t make any financial or practical sense.

Something to add from the technical side: the A300 was designed on paper, transferring those into digital plans will be a monumental task. In addition to new engines, composite materials, manufacturing methods, digital data buses, etc. it definitely makes more sense to design a new A/C from scratch while retaining original requirements, competing with the Boeing NMA. Personally I think a miniaturized A350 would look cool.

Casemix

How about Airbus working on a new slightly bigger A320 family to replace the current family. The A220 is covering the A318 already. The bigger version of the new A320 family could provide the cover for the NMA. The current A320 production is filled for the next few years which will give time to design and build the new plane. The only problem is “is the technology ready yet or will be be ready in next 5-10 years”

Joshua

I am so pleased Airbus all the way

Joshua

How about an a370 to compete with the 777x (-9)