AIRBUS INDUSTRIE is studying ways of cutting the cost of its A310 aircraft, in an effort to revive sales and counter proposed higher-gross-weight developments of the Boeing 757.

According to Adam Brown, Airbus vice-president for strategic planning, the company is looking at a lower priced A310, offering 18% lower seat-kilometre costs than the slightly smaller 757-200 narrowbody twinjet.

One option under consideration is reducing the aircraft's maximum take-off weight (MTOW) and range. The A310-300 was originally designed to a basic MTOW of 150,000kg, but the addition of more fuel has increased this to 164,000kg.

Lower weight would cut the aircraft's maximum range from the existing 9,540km (5,150nm) to the design's original 7,960km limit, sufficient for US transcontinental operations. No changes are envisaged to the fuselage length or 220-seat two-class capacity.

General Electric is looking at a light A310 development as a possible secondary platform for its new 226kN (51,000lb)-thrust powerplant, now under study for the proposed stretched A340-600. It would replace the A310's higher-thrust GE CF6-80C2 or Pratt & Whitney PW4156.

By reducing the weight of the A310, it would be able to compete more effectively against the rival 189-seat 757. Boeing is also looking at further 757 development, with an extended-range -200X and stretch -300X under study.

The proposed 757 stretch would offer 20% more seats and 10% lower operating-costs, while retaining the 7,400km range.

Both hope that lower-cost versions will generate fresh orders. Production has slowed in recent years, with large numbers of surplus aircraft on the market.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has already hinted at interest in a new A310 version to meet its regional W-aircraft requirement. The carrier has stated a need for up to 15 aircraft as replacement for many of its early build A310-200/300s.

Source: Flight International