Air Transport World

Next millennium whale hunter.(Airbus Industrie's A340-500/600 aircraft)

The A340-500/600 is Airbus's offering for replacing the 747 Classic. Will superior range give it the edge over the 777-300?

Airbus Industrie's formal go-ahead on the A340-500/600 program last December marks the opening of a new front in its campaign against the Boeing colossus. Airbus finally presents a legitimate contender in the market to replace the 600 or so 747 "Classics" in service at the end of 1996.

The A340-600, with a capacity of 380 passengers in 3-class intercontinental service, is well-sized to challenge the 777-300 for the 747 replacement market. Although the 777 is slightly larger, the dash 600 offers far more range: 7,500 nm vs. 5,600 nm for the Boeing product.

The A340-500, meanwhile, which will be capable of seating 313 in 3-class service, will be the longest-legged airline transport in the world, with a range of 8,500 nm carrying a full payload, according to Airbus. Of course, the 777-300 has a leg up in the battle, given that it is scheduled to enter service next month, while the A340-500/600 will not be flying until after the next century has arrived.

For some years, manufacturers have been debating whether airlines need more range or more capacity for their largest aircraft (ATW, 4/96, p. 31). With this move, Airbus is opting for the range feature but covering its capacity capabilities just enough to challenge the 777-300 in this regard.

Airbus has secured commitments for more than 100 airplanes from seven airlines, according to Senior Vice President-Commercial John Leahy, five of which have been identified: Air Canada, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa, EgyptAir and EVA Air. …

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