A long-haul European

Airbus A340-300

It was a coup for Airbus when the A340-300 took off on its maiden flight in October 1991. With its own long-haul, wide-bodied jet it had gained ground on the competition from North America

airbus a340-300

Airbus opened up an entirely new market segment with its four-engine, long-haul A340-300, seen here on the ground at Toulouse-Blagnac airport

© Deutsche Lufthansa AG

An A340-300 operating for Lufthansa can fly up to 12,700 kilometers without a refueling stop. According to cabin layout, it can seat up to 336 passengers (Lufthansa keeps it down to 221 passengers). And in 1991, it wasn’t only Airbus that lacked an aircraft like this in its product range. No other manufacturer could offer that sort of performance either.

There were, of course, one or two long-haul aircraft of similar, i.e. medium, capacity. But these were either getting on in years (like the McDonnell Douglas DC 10 and the Lockheed L-1011), or they had only two engines (like the Boeing 767) and were consequently prohibited by international regulations from making direct flights over long routes like the North Atlantic without making long detours.

Airbus planners had started kicking around ideas for a four-engine, long-range aircraft back in 1981, but the corporation had taken a policy decision to restrict its production to the short- and medium-haul planes of the A320 family for the time being. It was only a few months after the A320 made its first flight in 1987 that Airbus officially announced the start of work on its A340 project.

The first A340s were delivered in March 1993. Lufthansa was one of the first customers. They opened up a new market segment for Airbus and underlined the corporation’s intention to get seriously involved in manufacture of long-haul planes. Further development work over the next few years produced the ultralong-haul A340-500 with a range of over 16,000 kilometers.

The A340-600 version used by Lufthansa held another impressive record – measuring 75.3 meters from nose to tail, it was for nearly ten years the longest commercial passenger aircraft, not only in the Lufthansa fleet but also in the whole world. It lost this title early in 2012 when the Boeing 747-8 made its appearance. It is exactly one meter longer.

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