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