The Airbus A310 vs Boeing 767 – A Comparison

Today we can barely imagine aviation without the duopoly of Airbus and Boeing. When compared to the American planemaker, its European counterpart is fairly new. The latter launched its second widebody aircraft, the A310, on July 7th, 1978. One week later, on July 14th, Boeing launched the 7X7, which was to become the 767. Let’s take a look a closer look at the two widebodies that were part of igniting one of the great commercial rivalries of our time.

Delta B767
The 767 and the A310 played a big part in shaping the aviation industry the way we know it today. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

One is exceedingly rare

One of the aircraft has 704 specimens still actively jetting about the sky. The other has only 27. The Boeing 767, besides proving a resilient passenger workhorse, has also transitioned successfully onto the cargo-only market. Just last month, Ethiopian Airlines announced it was setting up a 767 cargo conversion site in Addis Ababa.

As such, the type is still in operation with 75 carriers across the globe. Meanwhile, the A310 is only in service with 12 carriers. Most of them are with Tehran-based Mahan Air, the German Luftwaffe, or the Royal Canadian Air Force. Three also fly cargo for ULS, wet-leased to Turkish Airlines.

Of course, the number of planes still in operation is not the only thing separating the models from the two rivals of the global aircraft-making duopoly. While the A310 may have launched a week prior to the 767, the latter beat the former into the sky. The Boeing 767 took its first flight in September 1981, six months before the Airbus A310.

Lufthansa A310
Lufthansa was the launch customer and the largest operator of the Airbus A310. Photo: Pedro Aragão via Wikimedia Commons

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A310 operators

The European planemaker constructed a total of 255 of the two variants of the A310 before it went out of production in 1998. Its largest operator was Lufthansa, which flew a total of 25, the last one exiting the fleet in January 2005. Singapore Airlines operated a total of 23, saying goodbye to its final A310-300 in September 2005.

Other operators of note were Pan Am, Kuwait Airways, Turkish Cargo, Air France, and KLM. The final Western airline to operate the plane was Canadian Air Transat, which retired its last A310 at the end of March 2020.

Air Transat A310
Air Transat retired its final A310 at the end of March last year. Photo: abdallahh via Wikimedia Commons

Boeing 767s still in production

Boeing still carries the 767 in its product catalog, in the shape of the freighter variant 767-300F and the military version of the 767-2C. An unidentified customer placed the latest order for the cargo version in July 2021. Meanwhile, according to Boeing’s order log, the last order for the passenger version of the plane came from LATAM in 2011.

The largest customers for the passenger version of the 767 have been Delta Air Lines, All Nippon Airways (ANA), United Airlines, and American Airlines. Delta is still operating 61 of the aircraft; ANA still has 29, and United has 54. Meanwhile, American also retired the last of its long-standing workhorse widebodies just as the pandemic and travel restrictions were reaching full gale in March 2020.

AA 767-300
American Airlines retired the last of its Boeing 767-300ERs in 2020. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Same length fuselages for A310 versions

Speaking of variants, the Airbus A310 had two basic versions – the A310-200 and the longer-range A310-300. Both came with two engine options, either General Electric CF6-80C2 or the Pratt & Whitney PW4000.

The A310-200 is 46.66 m (153 ft 1 in) long, and the cabin width is 5.28 m (17 ft 4 in), whereas the wingspan measures 43.9 meters (144 ft). It can fly for 3,500 NM (6,500 km) and first entered service with SWISS and Lufthansa.

The -300 is dimensionally the same as the -200 but provides a higher Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) and an increased range due to additional center and horizontal stabilizer fuel tanks.

The range for the -300 is 5,150 NM (9,540 km). Both models have an altitude ceiling of 41,100 ft (12,527 m). Furthermore, both of the types accommodate between 190 and 230 passengers in a standard three-class configuration.

Mahan Air A310
Mahan Air is today’s biggest operator of the A310. Photo: Lasse Fuss via Wikimedia Commons

A whole range of lengths for the 767

Meanwhile, Boeing has produced the 767 in three different fuselage lengths. The first model was the 767-200, 48.51 m (159 ft 2 in) long, with United Airlines as the launch customer. Then came the 767-300, which entered service with Japan Airlines in 1986, measuring 54.94 m (180 ft 3 in). The ER-version of the plane debuted two years later with American. Both the -200 and the -300 measure 47.57 m (156 ft 1 in) over the wings.

The second stretched fuselage version, the Boeing 767-400, entered service in 2000 with Continental Airlines. It has a total length of 61.3 m (201 ft 4 in) and a wingspan of 51.92 m (170 ft 4 in). However, the cabin width of the 767 is 4.72 m (15 ft 6 in), which means that the A310 beats it by about half a meter.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mahan_Air_A310_EP-MNO.jpg
The cabin of the 767 is slightly more narrow than that of the A310. Photo: Rattaphol Kerdaken via Flickr

…and a whole variety of ranges

The 767 models have ranges beginning at 3,900 NM (7,200 km) for the original 767-200 and ending with 6,590 NM (12,200 km) for the 767-200ER. As the smaller of the planes, it maintains the longest range, despite Boeing developing an extra range version of both the 767-300 and the 767-400. All the 767s are certified for a maximum ceiling of 13,100 m (43,100 ft), beating the A310 by 2,000 feet.

The 767-200 seats between 174 and 214 passengers in a three-class or two-class configuration, respectively. Meanwhile, the -300 can accommodate between 210 and 261, and the -400 can seat between 240 and 296 passengers. Interestingly enough, both the 767 and the A310 shared the same engine options.

While the 767 may have been a fan favorite with the airlines, it seems passengers very much appreciated Airbus’ contribution to the medium-range widebody competition. The A310 also served to gather momentum for Airbus during the manufacturer’s early days, setting the stage for the duopoly we have grown so accustomed to today.

How many of these models have you flown on? Which one was your favorite, and from which airline? Leave a comment in the section below and tell us about your experience. 

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