As troubled carrier delays delivery, manufacturer reveals higher-weight -500 option to close 777-200LR range gap

Airbus is seeking new customers for Air Canada's first two A340-500s because the launch operator is unlikely to take delivery of the aircraft as scheduled due to its financial woes. Emirates and South African Airways (SAA) are seen as the lead candidates for the aircraft.

Air Canada was due to be the first airline to take delivery of the 313-seat A340-500 in May, but according to manufacturing sources, delivery of its first two aircraft, which are awaiting handover in Toulouse, has been delayed following the airline's recent bankruptcy protection filing.

Air Canada was unavailable for comment on the status of the deliveries; Airbus declines to comment.

SAA, which already operates the larger A340-600, has emerged as the most likely operator and SAA chief financial officer Richard Forson confirms that the airline has held "preliminary talks" with Airbus, but says it has not yet received a formal proposal. "I can't say we are seriously looking, but if Airbus makes a proposal, we will look at it," he says, adding that Airbus is also talking to other carriers about the aircraft.

Emirates, which has six A340-500s on order, is understood to have also been contacted about the aircraft. The Dubai carrier was already due be the second airline after Air Canada to receive the -500, in September. Singapore Airlines (SIA) is the only other airline customer for the -500, and is due to put the type into service early next year.

Meanwhile, Airbus has unveiled a higher weight option for the A340-500 to boost range to 16,400km (8,860nm) and reduce the performance gap with the Boeing 777-200LR, which can fly 16,980km.

The baseline A340-500 has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 368,000kg (810,600lb) and a 4,000kg MTOW increase is now available to extend the range by 300km, without the need for structural changes.

The enhanced performance package for the A340-500/600's Rolls-Royce Trent 500 has been certificated and the engine is due to enter service on SIA's A340-500s. R-R says the package will be standard on Trent 500s. In-service aircraft will be upgraded in 2004.


Source: Flight International