Could Airbus Build An Airbus A340neo?

Airbus loves to reinvent its aircraft. They took their best-selling aircraft and created the NEO series, with so many improvements that their order book almost doubled overnight.

Airbus
Could Airbus build an A340neo? Photo: Airbus

But what if they took a gander at their other large aircraft? We already covered what it would be like if Airbus revisited the A380 and created the A380neo. But another aircraft that might have success as a NEO variant is the A340.

What would an A340neo look like? Let’s have a look!

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The case for the A340neo

The A340 is a unique aircraft. It was the only single deck commercial aircraft to have four engines and thus fit in the ETOPS restriction over the Pacific. It was also a competitor to the Boeing 747 and caused Boeing to abandon plans for the 747 upgrade and build the Boeing 777 instead.

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Airbus’ A340 became a popular aircraft, with multiple variants and over 377 deliveries over the lifetime of the series.

Airbus
A340 was a successful aircraft for Airbus. Photo: Airbus

But the A340 did have problems. Four engines means four ways to burn fuel, burning much more fuel over a distance than a twin-engine aircraft like the Boeing 777 or the A330. For some airlines, that was simply too much and they swapped out the A340 with a less thirsty aircraft (like the Boeing 777) as soon as they could.

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“We’ve taken a big hit to retire them, but [their poor economics means] there’s no point in flying them,” says Tim Clark, the CEO of Emirates to Flight Global in 2013. “They were designed in the late 1990s with fuel at $25-30. They fell over at $60 and at $120 they haven’t got a hope in hell.”

An A340neo would need to fix these problems, and find a way to make the four engines as fuel efficient as two, as well as overhaul other areas of the aircraft.

What would its specifications be?

Hypothetically, there would be two variants of the A340neo. These numbers are based off improvements that we have seen in the A330 range when they developed the neo concept.

  • A340-700neo – The smaller variant of neo would transport 340 passengers to a range of 9,700 nmi
  • A340-800neo – The bigger variant would transport up to 400 passengers to a range of 9,000 nmi

This aircraft would have a mammoth range and be incredibly useful for airlines looking to open long haul routes like Qantas (Project Sunrise) as well as carriers keen to open the very lucrative Transantarctic route to reach the South American marketplace.

Additional improvements include winglets, a composite body, passenger quality of life improvements (seating, humidity, LED lights etc) and modern cockpit concepts.

Regarding the engines, one possibility would be the ‘open rotor concept’. This design is more fuel efficient than conventional jet engines at the cost of noise.

Would it ever be built?

Despite the case outlined above, it is unlikely.

There are several reasons why Airbus would not build an A340 and it is not because the idea itself is not strong enough. Airbus already has an aircraft that is a spiritual successor to the A340, the A350.

The A350 can carry around 369 passengers to a range of 8,700 nmi. The A340-600 can carry 380 passengers to a range of 7,500 nmi. The A350 is far more fuel efficient and has all the upgrades that could possibly be planned for the A340.

SAA airbus a350 NY
The A350 is the spiritual successor to the A340. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Additionally, cargo is a massive revenue driver for airlines and the A340 isn’t as good as transporting cargo as the Boeing 747-8F and thus would lose head to head.

Lastly, it would cost Airbus a fortune to develop and build even a prototype. It would take over five years to develop the blueprints, and by that time who knows what direction the market will have gone.

What do you think? Will there ever be an A340neo? Let us know in the comments.

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Niklas Andersson

Nopp,

There is no meaning to build a 340 Neo…. evolution after revolution…

The A360 is already on the path…

Even the A 380 NEO still on the Table… for som Airliners likes Ethiad, Quantas, ANA and suprisely from Quatar and Delta. Wondering why ?

Can we get a 747 XXX ? it may be possible in deed.

Julian Mark Johnson

The A340neo does exist. It’s called the A350, and to a lesser extent the A330neo

Niklas Andersson

A350 is a new engineered aircraft not a déclinaison of the 340, not like 737 Max…

Niklas Andersson

A350 is a new engineered aircraft not a déclinaison of the 340,

not like 737 Max… From the genuin 737 from the 50th.

Let’s compare what’s comparable…

Nicholas

One day an airliner with two jets will lose both somewhere out over the ocean and we will wonder why we got rid of the four-engined beauties like the A340…

Martin

The 340 was the quietest, most comfortable, smoothest aircraft ever…from an experienced traveller who flew 747 and 777 as well. Bring it back!

Brian

An A300neo, same fuselage diameter, but a twin….

Gary

Here Here Nicholas , Tis just a matter time.
The A340-600 , my favourite single decked long haul airlines.The 4 Rolls Royce powered engines look proportionally better in relation to the length of the A340-600(was the longest commercial airliner built , until Boeing released the B777-300ER version, claimed the title by an extra half a meter)
The B747-400, of which I’m equally fond of, yet the 4 Rolls Royce RB211 engines looked like the A340-200 does fitted with “hair dryer ” sized engines.

flee

Airbus no longer produce the A340 and the tooling is gone. Some may say that they still make the A330 but this aircraft no longer has the A340 bits like centre landing gear and outer engine mounting points. Yes, the A350 already satisfy the roles envisaged for this so called A340Neo.

Martijn

The tooling is gone? That’s not an argument. Tooling can be made again. But we all know the A340 won’t get a four engined successor.

Matt

I could see someone like FedEx installing new engines on a cargo version. The A320neo engines are pretty similar in thrust ratings. I don’t see it for passenger aircraft. Too much trouble to certify it. The A340 actually wasn’t to terribly inefficient. The comparable 777 had two advantages, better cargo capacity, and the two engines. The two engines are actually less efficient directly. On a quad engine aircraft, you are required to have enough thrust on three engines to be able to climb. On a twin, now you need the same amount of thrust available on one engine. It’s why… Read more »

mano jesudian

A 380 Neo is a good. option .

Parker West

I got a chuckle out of the writer’s interpretation of numbers. He stated that the 4 engine fossil, A340 sold well with 377 built, previously Simple Flying has written of the sluggish 777X sales which are in the neighborhood of 350 aircraft. There is less than 10% difference between selling well and sluggish. The 340 will sell no more units it’s done at 377, the 777X hasn’t delivered even one aircraft, Boeing has a decade of further 777X sales ahead. There are a lot of 777-200’s that will be turned into freighters and many will be replaced with 777X’s. As… Read more »

ROBERT T

I flew on an SQ A340 Newark-Singapore flight in 2007 in business and it was one of the best, most comfortable flights I’ve ever been on. The comfort of the seats is determined by the airline, not the manufacturer, and economy seating is no comparison to premium. Business class has become so good more recently it’s no wonder airlines are phasing out first. I would love to see an upgraded version of A340Neo, possibley as freight combo – I see hybrid type of aircrafts being produced in the future with sufficient cargo and passenger spaces, modular design, whereby some of… Read more »