In 2006, Airbus launched a new airframe, the A350. That plane went on to make its maiden flight in 2013 and has gone into service with airlines worldwide. However, since then, things have been rather quiet at Airbus, with no new planes announced. In fact, the most notable news out of Airbus for a long time was the end of an aircraft – the A380. Yet, that hasn’t stopped speculation and wishful thinking, particularly about a potential A360.
A lack of hard information about any A360 hasn’t stopped speculation
Run a Google image search of A360, and you’ll find that some airplane enthusiasts have imagined the aircraft as a twin-engine, double-decker aircraft – like a mini A380. Can you see Airbus going down that road again? No, nor can we.
For the record, Airbus hasn’t said much about any A360. Probably because there isn’t much to say. In a discussion about aircraft nomenclature, Airbus previously told Forbes’ Michael Goldstein that;
“There are currently no Airbus A360, A370, or A390 programs underway nor plans at this time to employ these monikers.”
That seems fairly clear cut. Throw in a subsequent collapse in demand for new aircraft, especially big planes, and you’d have to figure rumors of any announcement about A360 are just that – rumors.
What if there was a rush of blood to the head at Airbus?
But let’s go hypothetical and assume there’s a rush of blood to the head at Airbus. After all, the aircraft manufacturer will have to release a new model at some point down the track. What would it look like?
Well, for starters, we should examine the existing gaps in the Airbus lineup and consider what makes the most sense. Currently, the largest A320-family member, the A321, has a maximum seating capacity of 244. Moving up, the smallest passenger variant of the A330, the A330-800, seats a maximum of 406.
Earlier last decade, in Global Security, there was a discussion about potential A360 and A370 aircraft. The writer makes two guesses on size in that analysis, proposing that an A360 would either fit between the A321 and smallest A330 or between the largest A350 and the A380. Based on the lack of success of the A380, we think the former is a more likely option.
In recent years we see the trend has been moving towards long and thin routes. An aircraft with a seating capacity somewhere in the range of 250-400 passengers could fit. This would also make sense as it would go head-to-head with any upcoming Boeing NMA.
Trends point away from any potential A360
Since the Global Security analysis and, more latterly, Michael Goldstein’s piece, significant changes have occurred in the aviation industry. One of the biggest trends is the shift away from bigger planes to smaller planes.
Arguably, Airbus is making a bigger success of its A220 program than it ever did with its A380 program. The A350 is a great plane, but its wave may be cresting. The A330 is also a good plane, but no longer in the bloom of youth. The action at Airbus is centered on smaller single-aisle planes.
Where that leaves a future aircraft with a seating capacity somewhere in the range of 250-400 passengers is anyone’s guess. For the time being, probably in the Airbus intern’s sketchpad. We’d say the prospects of any future A360 getting announced anytime soon is pretty much dead in the water.
Nonetheless, if you have any thoughts, or even better, some inside information, we’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment and let us know.