The other troubled Airbus model

Thomas Lifson
While Airbus struggles with the financial and technological consequences of its A380 superjumbo program, the company also faces potentially serious trouble with its next-largest airliner, the four-engine wide body A340-600. As American Thinker has previously noted, the entire A340 family of aircraft has been troubled by fuel efficiency questions, and is selling badly. Fortunately for Airbus, a sister airplane, the two engine A330 is more efficient, and continues to sell at a satisfactory pace. The A 330 has models which can handle shorter trans-Pacific routes, such as San Francisco to Tokyo, but for truly long range flights, the four engine variant is required.

The A340-600 is a beautiful airplane because its fuselage has been lengthened with the addition of "plugs" of fuselage, much as the old DC-8 family of jetliners was, producing the DC-8-61 and other stretch variants. The A340-600 has a longer fuselage than even the A380.

But evidently there are problems with the way Airbus engineered this airplane. Specifically, with the addition of the sort of electronics-laden sleeper seats that airlines install to lure high-paying premium passengers on long haul routes, the airplane's center of gravity is so far forward that cargo loads must be reduced or eliminated in the belly of the forward part of the airplane. This can result in forgoing as much as 5 tons of cargo revenue per flight.

The Times of London reports that two of the major customers for the plane are considering lawsuits against Airbus:

The first and business class sections on some A340600s are so heavy that they are pushing the jet's nose down during flight, which can play havoc with the aerodynamics and potentially endanger passengers and crew. Flying nose down also increases drag off the wings and forces the aircraft to burn more fuel.

Airbus has recommended that airlines carry about five tonnes less cargo in the front of the plane to compensate, a reduction of nearly 10 per cent in its total cargo capacity.

Airbus says that the airlines are to blame for fitting premium cabins with full-sized beds, heavy furniture and weighty entertainment systems.

However, aviation sources have told The Times that a number of airlines are insisting that it is Airbus's error. The airlines believe Airbus has incorrectly stated the maximum weight for front-end cabins and they are considering suing for lost cargo income.
Obviously, there are two sides to any potential court case, and this story might well have been leaked by unidentified carriers as a method to pressure Airbus into paying compensation, much as it has been paying compensation over the delays in  the A380 delays. The mention of safety issues is overblown, since airlines routinely manage center of gravity issues by carefully loading passengers and cargo to avoid problems.

But it is never good when customers are unhappy with your products to the point of even leaking hints that they may sue, much less suing. The A340 was the longest-range airliner in the world when it was launched. In that era of lower fuel prices, the penalty for its four engines was tolerable to many airlines. But Boeing's subsequent 777 extended range models have more efficient twin engines and wider cabins, and vastly outsell the A340s. As AT reported earlier, customers like Air Canada are replacing some or all of their A340s.

Airbus faces multiple obstacles in its return to health. I wish them well.

Hat tip: Corky Boyd
While Airbus struggles with the financial and technological consequences of its A380 superjumbo program, the company also faces potentially serious trouble with its next-largest airliner, the four-engine wide body A340-600. As American Thinker has previously noted, the entire A340 family of aircraft has been troubled by fuel efficiency questions, and is selling badly. Fortunately for Airbus, a sister airplane, the two engine A330 is more efficient, and continues to sell at a satisfactory pace. The A 330 has models which can handle shorter trans-Pacific routes, such as San Francisco to Tokyo, but for truly long range flights, the four engine variant is required.

The A340-600 is a beautiful airplane because its fuselage has been lengthened with the addition of "plugs" of fuselage, much as the old DC-8 family of jetliners was, producing the DC-8-61 and other stretch variants. The A340-600 has a longer fuselage than even the A380.

But evidently there are problems with the way Airbus engineered this airplane. Specifically, with the addition of the sort of electronics-laden sleeper seats that airlines install to lure high-paying premium passengers on long haul routes, the airplane's center of gravity is so far forward that cargo loads must be reduced or eliminated in the belly of the forward part of the airplane. This can result in forgoing as much as 5 tons of cargo revenue per flight.

The Times of London reports that two of the major customers for the plane are considering lawsuits against Airbus:

The first and business class sections on some A340600s are so heavy that they are pushing the jet's nose down during flight, which can play havoc with the aerodynamics and potentially endanger passengers and crew. Flying nose down also increases drag off the wings and forces the aircraft to burn more fuel.

Airbus has recommended that airlines carry about five tonnes less cargo in the front of the plane to compensate, a reduction of nearly 10 per cent in its total cargo capacity.

Airbus says that the airlines are to blame for fitting premium cabins with full-sized beds, heavy furniture and weighty entertainment systems.

However, aviation sources have told The Times that a number of airlines are insisting that it is Airbus's error. The airlines believe Airbus has incorrectly stated the maximum weight for front-end cabins and they are considering suing for lost cargo income.
Obviously, there are two sides to any potential court case, and this story might well have been leaked by unidentified carriers as a method to pressure Airbus into paying compensation, much as it has been paying compensation over the delays in  the A380 delays. The mention of safety issues is overblown, since airlines routinely manage center of gravity issues by carefully loading passengers and cargo to avoid problems.

But it is never good when customers are unhappy with your products to the point of even leaking hints that they may sue, much less suing. The A340 was the longest-range airliner in the world when it was launched. In that era of lower fuel prices, the penalty for its four engines was tolerable to many airlines. But Boeing's subsequent 777 extended range models have more efficient twin engines and wider cabins, and vastly outsell the A340s. As AT reported earlier, customers like Air Canada are replacing some or all of their A340s.

Airbus faces multiple obstacles in its return to health. I wish them well.

Hat tip: Corky Boyd