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This led to Airbus having to design and build an aircraft to replace the mid and short range aircraft already existing such as the A300 and the A320 so as to meet these new market requirements. During that time, the current long range wide body aircraft available was the Boeing 767. However this aircraft was at a disadvantage against other aircraft of its time because of the ETOPS problem. ETOPS is a rule which allows twin engine aircraft to fly routes which have previously been off limits to them. During that time, because of the ETOPS rule, the 767 could not fly long range. Therefore when Airbus launched the A340 project, they were presenting a new generation market competitor to the ETOPS immune aircraft such as the Boeing 747. The four-engine design of the A340 was one of the main features that was to make this aircraft a definite competitor. This aircraft would be similar in design to the A330 as they were developed around the same time but the A340 would incorporate more engines.
After the manufacture of the first A340 had been completed, it took to the sky for the first time on the 21st of October 1991 There are 4 variants of the A340 that where produced by airbus and they are the A340-200, A340-300, A340-500 and the A340-600.
The A340 was designed similar to the twin engine A330 with both aircraft having the same wing and a similar fuselage structure. The A340 also features the same advanced technology developed for the A320. This is the reason why some variants like the A340-600 share a common flight deck with the A320. All aircraft in the A340 family are known for their flexibility on long and ultra-long range flights. This means they operate on some of the worlds' longest, most demanding airline routes. The A340 is also immune from long range operating restrictions that apply to twin engine jetliners. This is because the design features 4 engines and that was to overcome these restrictions. The A340 was designed in 4 different fuselage lengths, meaning there are 4 different series in the A340 family. There were initially two variants, the A340-200 and the A340-300 then in the year 1997 Airbus launched two more variants, the ultra-long range A340-500 and the high capacity A340-600. These two later variants entered service in the year 2002.
The A340-200 had a shorter fuselage and was of smaller capacity than the A340-300 but it could fly farther, meaning featured a longer range in nautical miles than the A340-300. With a seating capacity of 261 passengers within a three-class-cabin configuration, it had a range of 7,450 nautical miles (13,000km). When seated with about 239 passengers that range could stretch up to 8,000 nautical miles. This series is powered by 4 CFMI-CFM56-5C engines which produce up to 25,000 pounds of force. When it was launched, it sold in relatively small numbers therefore it is no longer available to customers. http://www.cfmaeroengines.com/img/engines/CFM56-5c-engine.jpg
The second in the series, the A340-300 flies 295 passengers in a three-class-cabin configuration with a shorter range of 6,700 nautical miles (12,400km) and is also powered by the same 4 CFMI-CFM56-5C engines which power the -200 series. The A340-300 features one of the quietest cabins in the sky, meaning it was designed with one of the criteria being to reduce noise. This particular series in the family also features key innovations such as fly-by-wire controls. This is a system which replaces the manual flight controls with an electrical interface which determines the response ordered by pilots during flight. This means increased flight protection and weight reduction as there are less physical mechanisms incorporated into the design. It also saves cost. A340-300 uses light, strong materials such as carbon fibre so as to reduce weight and not compromise on structure quality and strength. This means Airbus save on training and maintenance. This aircraft is also environmentally friendly as it features low fuel burn which means reduced carbon emissions.
The third series which is the A340-500 was once the world's longest range commercial airliner before the introduction of the Boeing 777. As Airbus state, "The A340-500 combines performance, comfort and capacity for highly efficient ultra-long-haul operations" (Airbus S.A.S 2012). This means that passengers are able to fly comfortably on a long flight which could last up to 14 hours. It seats up to 313 passengers in a three-class-cabin configuration. It has a range of up to 9,000 nautical miles and operates on some of the world's longest non-stop routes.
The last aircraft in this family is the A340-600. It is the largest of all aircraft in the A340 family. Featuring the longest fuselage it has the largest capacity of all the A340 family. It is 75.3 metres in length and has a seating capacity of 360 passengers in a three-class-cabin layout and up to 419 passengers in a two-class-cabin layout. This aircraft also has two times the under-floor cargo space than comparable aircraft. Packing a range of 7,900 nautical miles it is also suitable for ultra-long-haul operations. This one unlike other series in its family is powered by 4 Rolls-Royce Trent 500 engines. The use of four instead of two engines means reduced maintenance costs for operators. As is stated on the Airbus website, "the A340-600's four engines allow for operations that are not subject to ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards) regulations." (Airbus S.A.S 2012). This means that the aircraft can fly more direct routes and long distances over the sea and far from airports. This all goes to save on fuel consumption and travel time which in turn means savings in costs. http://resources3.news.com.au/images/2010/11/08/1225949/521519-rolls-royce-trent.jpg
As one studies the A340 family it becomes apparent that it is an airline designed for the commercial market targeting some of the longest and most demanding flight routes. Its customers range from normal day to day consumers all the way up to VVIP passengers such as Government officials and highly rated business men and women. The A340 family of aircraft is able to operate in hot and high airports. These are airports which are a certain height above sea level and have low air density due to high ambient temperature. Some of these airports are off limits to other aircraft therefore meaning that Airbus has increased its market share in such geographical locations. It is also targeted at consumers looking to reduce their travel time and scheduled stops during flights that is why all aircraft featured in the A340 series are ultra-long-range. This means that customers are able to reduce unproductive stops and open new more direct routes. As for everyday consumers, the A340 family features state of the art in-flight entertainment meaning customers can relax and enjoy their flight. Airbus has managed to keep the A340 family updated in terms of technology. Other than state of the art cabin features for passengers, it also incorporates advanced navigation aided and electronic flight bags for pilots. This means pilots can perform flight tasks more efficiently with the less use of paper. The market need addressed here is that of safer aircraft as plane crashes have claimed many lives in past years. Another market need is that of lighter but stronger materials which is why the A340 makes use of composite materials such as carbon fibre which is strong and light. This means saving on weight. A more aerodynamic design also means savings on fuel which means less emissions and less pollution. The issue of pollution is a very important one in today's transport and travel industry.
Airbus' main competitor is Boeing. These two companies have been rivalling for years as they are the top producers of aircraft in the world, mostly civil aircraft. As for the A340 family, the biggest competitor is the Boeing 777. It was said by the president of Dubai's Emirates Airline that large versions of the 777 consume up to 12% less fuel than rival A340 models. This means that airlines would order more 777s than A340s because they wish to save on fuel costs since fuel prices are ever raising.
After studying the Airbus A340's key features, its contribution to the market and studying its biggest competitor, it is clear to that the A340 family did have its glory days where it flourished as the ultimate ultra-long range aircraft with leading technological advances and guaranteed passenger safety. It offered passenger comfort like none other of its time and had a large market share as it was immune from ETOPs regulations and could fly on routes and operate in airports off-limits to other aircraft. It also offered fuel saving designs which meant the company could save on fuel costs benefiting passengers. During its time it was the quietest aircraft in the sky with good range and strong, light materials. It offered extended operating ranges of up to 9,000 nautical miles. Its interior layout succeeded aesthetically which put passengers in a relaxing mode as they could travel in comfort. It was the leading aircraft of its time and had a healthy market share. All this was good until the introduction of the Boeing 777. This came into service to be consistently ranked at the top of operator and investor polls. The 777 family brought cleaner, greener, quitter planes. Therefore over the years it managed to edge the A340 out of the market. Chief operating officer of Airbus admitted this himself. 777 basically became the market's favourite over the A340. It turned out that the 777 was cheaper to run than the A340. This meant that the 777 became more popular with airlines. This caused Airbus to stop production of the A340. The 777 also offers more customer preferences than the A340 in every class. It offers more space and interior configurations. The 777 also generates more revenue and is more family proven by a large customer base. The 777 therefore manages to be a better airliner than the A340. This meant Airbus has to axe the A340 production because it was not generating much revenue and became less popular with the market.