A340 is a
long-range widebody commercial passenger airplane manufactured by Airbus. It is
similar in design to its sister, the A330, but uses four engines rather than
two. It was initially designed as a smaller replacement for early generation
Boeing 747's, but the latest variants now compete with Boeing's 777 series of
aircraft on long-haul and ultra long-haul routes.
Airbus' new aircraft was launched in 1988 as a long-range complement to the
short-range A320 and the medium-range A300. At the time, the newest long-range
wide body (the twinjet Boeing 767) was at a disadvantage against aircraft such
as the 747 because of the ETOPS problem: two-engine aircraft have to stay within
close range of emergency airfields in case one of their engines malfunctions.
The four-engine A340 design was an attempt to make a new-generation competitor
for ETOPS-immune aircraft like the Boeing 747.
Airbus' engineers designed the A340 in parallel with the twin-engine A330:
both aircraft share the same wing and similar fuselage structure, and borrow
heavily from the advanced avionics developed for the A320.
Original intentions were to use the new super fan engines of IAE
(International Aero Engines) in the A340 but IAE decided to stop their
development and the CFMI CFM56-5C4 was used instead. When the A340 first flew in
1991 engineers noticed a potentially major design flaw in the first model: the
wings were not strong enough to carry the outboard engines at cruising speed
without warping and fluttering. To alleviate this an under wing bulge called the
plastron, after an analogous part of the anatomy of tortoises, was developed to
fix airflow problems around the engine pylons. The modified A340 began
commercial service in 1993 with Lufthansa and Air France.
The A340 incorporates many high-technology features such as
- Fully digital fly-by-wire flight control system
- Side stick controller instead of normal control columns
- Common pilot rating with the two-engine A330
- CRT-based glass cockpit displays ; LCD-based on -500 & -600
- Some composite primary structures
Initially there were two models of A340, the A340-200 and A340-300. The 200
is shorter than the 300 and has a smaller capacity, but can fly farther. In
1997, Airbus launched two lengthened variants of the A340, the ultra-long-range
-500 and high-capacity -600 series. Both of these models entered airline service
The A340-200, with 261 passengers in a three-class cabin layout has a range
of 7,450 nautical miles (13,000 km) and, in a 239 seats configuration, has a
range of up to 8,000 nautical miles (14,800 km). A shortened version of the
A340-300, it is powered by four CFMI CFM56-5C engines. The A340-200 was launched
in 1987 and first flew April 1, 1992.
This variant sold in relatively small numbers and is no longer being offered
An A340-200 based variant with additional fuel capacity giving MTOW of 275
tonnes. Its range with 232 three-class passengers is 8,100 nautical miles
(15,000 km). It is powered by the 34,000 lbf (151 kN) thrust CFMI
CFM56-5C4s similar to the -300E. One example was bought by the Sultan of Brunei.
Other A340-200s were later given performance improvement packages (PIPs)
which helped them achieve similar gains in capability. Those aircraft are
The A340-300 flies 295 passengers in a typical three-class cabin layout over
6,700 nautical miles (12,400 km). This is the initial version, having flown on
October 25, 1991 and entered service with Lufthansa and Air France in March
1993. It is powered by four CFMI CFM56-5C engines, similar to the -200.
The direct Boeing equivalent is the 777-200ER.
The A340-313X is a heavyweight version of the A340, and, was first delivered
to Singapore Airlines in April, 1996. The A340-313E was first delivered to Swiss
International in 2003. They have a MTOW between 271 and 275 tonnes with typical
range with 295 passengers of between 7,100 and 7,300 nautical miles (13,100 km
and 13,500 km). It is powered by the more powerful 34,000 lbf (151 kN)
thrust CFMI CFM56-5C4s.
The A340-500 was the world's longest-range commercial airliner for a short
time, until the introduction of the Boeing 777-200LR "Worldliner". It can fly
313 passengers in a three-class cabin layout over 8,650 nautical miles (16,000
km). Singapore Airlines, for example, currently uses this model for its Newark,
New Jersey-Singapore non-stop route, an 18-hour journey that is the longest
non-stop commercial flight in the world; the airline is able to do this with a
reduced cargo load. It is said that the A340-500 can go from London to Perth,
Australia. It made its first flight on February 11, 2002, and was certified on
December 3, 2002 with early deliveries to Emirates.
Compared with the A340-300, the -500 features a 3.3-m fuselage stretch, an
enlarged wing area, massive increase in fuel capacity (around 50% over -300),
slightly higher cruising speed, larger horizontal stabilizer and smaller
vertical tail plane. Like the 777-300, the -500/-600 has taxi cameras to help
the pilots during ground manoeuvres. The A340-500 is powered by four 53,000 lbf
(236 kN) thrust Rolls-Royce Trent 553 turbofans.
The direct Boeing equivalent is the 777-200LR.
Designed as an early-generation Boeing 747 replacement, the A340-600 flies
380 passengers in a three-class cabin layout over 7,500 nautical miles (13,900
km). It provides similar passenger capacity to a 747 but with twice the cargo
volume, and at lower trip and seat costs. First flight of the A340-600 was made
on April 23, 2001. Virgin Atlantic began commercial services in August, 2002.
Cathay Pacific uses the plane on its non-stop service between Hong Kong and New
York City (JFK).
It is more than 10 m longer than a basic -300, making it the longest airliner
in the world, more than four metres longer than a Boeing 747-400. It is powered
by four 56,000 lbf (249 kN) thrust Rolls-Royce Trent 556 turbofans.
It also has an additional four-wheel undercarriage on the fuselage centre-line
to cope with the increase of the MTOW.
The initial seven A340-600 aircraft were delivered with overweight wings.
After the A340-600 launch customer (Virgin Atlantic) elected to receive
replacement aircraft, these airframes were delivered at a reduced price to
Iberia Airlines and Cathay Pacific.
The direct Boeing equivalent is the 777-300ER.
Information current as of August 5, 2005:
Hull loss accidents
The A340 has not had a fatal incident to date, but it has suffered two
- Air France A340-211 (F-GNIA): On January 20, 1994, an Air France A340-211
(F-GNIA) was lost to fire during servicing at CDG.
- Air France Flight 358: On August 3, 2005, all 297 passengers and 12 crew
survived a crash and fire after their A340-300 (F-GLZQ) overshot runway 24L at
Toronto Pearson International Airport in a thunderstorm. The aircraft slid into
Etobicoke Creek and broke up. 43 were injured, none seriously.
- An A340-312 of Sri Lankan Airlines was destroyed on the ground by Tamil
Tigers guerrillas on July 24, 2001 at Colombo-Bandaranayake IAP, Sri Lanka,
along with 2 A330s and a squadron of military aircraft.
- Wingspan: 60.3 m
- Wing sweep: 31.1 degrees
- Length: 59.4 m to 75.3 m
- Height: 17.3 m
- Wheelbase: 32.9 m
- Cruising speed: Mach 0.86
- Operating range: 13,350 km to 16,050 km
- Passenger capacity: 239 to 380 in three classes