Air Transport World

Marathon machine. (Airbus Industrie introduces its A340 aircraft) (includes related article about Singapore Airline buying the A340)

The A340 that Airbus Industrie rolls out this month in Toulouse is the consortium's first true entrant in the longhaul sweepstakes, yet another market niche with an Airbus option. With the addition of the A340 and its fraternal twin, the A330 twinjet, the Airbus product fine spans every broad market requirement from 140 seats up to and nudging into the Boeing 747's market.

From the beginning, the choice with the A340 is not a simple matter of this airplane or that. Rather, the A340 presents a menu of mix-and-match growth and commonality options for airlines, some tied to the variety of A340 models already committed or planned, others accruing as benefits of the A340's very strong finks with the A330.

Airbus Industrie believes the various versions of the long-range aircraft in combination with its twin-engine brother make up a formula for success. That success, in hard terms, translates into Airbus expectations that it will sell and deliver 1,300 A330s and A340s combined by the year 2008. As of early August, the A340 alone had logged 115 firm orders and 95 options, while the A330 had garnered an additional 149 orders and 100 options.

"We're largely sold out of A330/A340s until late 1995," said Cohn Stuart, general manager-product marketing. Availability of delivery positions through late 1997 is described as "extremely fight."

"We're not looking for launch customers-we're seeking customers for the second step of the program, including combis," Stuart said. Singapore Airlines' order for 20 A340s (ATW, 9/91) launched part of that second step, moving the aircraft to a higher gross weight.

Traditional ways of discussing a new transport as a stand-alone system will fail to fully appreciate how completely intertwined the A340 and A330 are. They will be assembled on the same production line and have an unprecedented high degree of commonality. Customers can switch orders between the A330 and A340 without penalty up to 18 months before delivery, as well as change between the different-length A340s. Beyond the technical, the two airplanes are designed for missions that neatly dovetail into one another, the A330 being the heavy hauler up to ranges of 5,500 nm, where, with some overlap, the A340 takes over.

The A340 is aimed at roughly the same market that McDonnell Douglas has claimed for the MD-11-long-range routes too thin for a 747-with an additional option of going after even thinner routes than the MD-11.

Airbus's marketing attitude for the A340 is a bit schizophrenic toward the 747-reflecting Airbus's admiration and envy of the Boeing flagship, or "cash cow," as Airbus calls it-presenting the A340 as both an alternative and a complement to the 747 in an airline's fleet. The MD-11, despite head-to-head competition in fleet selections around the world, is a lesser presence in marketing materials. …

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