Airbus Industrie has completed a review of the A340-500/600's baseline specification, resulting in an increase in design weight and boosting range by some 370km (200nm) to meet requirements from potential customers, such as Singapore Airlines.

Alan Pardoe, A330/A340 product manager, says that the review was completed in mid-September, as the consortium moves towards a planned programme design freeze by the end of the year.

"There has been a series of developments since the last customer focus group meeting in April," says Pardoe, "which has seen us review the design weights as a result of customer input."

Earlier this year, Airbus revised the -500/600's new centre-undercarriage installation, which now retracts and stows forward instead of aft, providing space for two additional pallet positions in the rear cargo hold. Maximum take-off weight (MTOW) on both models has been increased by 9t, to 365t, while maximum landing and zero-fuel weights are up by 6t, to 236t and 22t, respectively, on the -500, and to 254t and 240t on the -600.

"This enables the -500 to carry its specification load of 313 passengers some 8,500nm, ie, 200nm further than before," says Pardoe, adding that similar gain has been achieved on the -600, to 13,875km.

Pardoe says that, despite the weight increases "-take-off performance is not affected and we don't need any more thrust. We will continue to use the baseline 236kN [53,000lb]-thrust Rolls-Royce Trent 553." It is understood that Airbus could boost MTOW to 390t, with a 267kN version of the Trent 500.

Airbus is battling with Boeing, fielding its 777-200X, to provide a 206-seat aircraft with a range of 16,260km for Singapore Airlines, to fly non-stop from Singapore to Los Angeles .

The new A340 family received its initial commercial go-ahead at the Paris show in June, and Pardoe says that the full industrial launch should happen "soon".

Service entry of the A340-600 is nominally set for early 2002, with Virgin Atlantic, followed "a few months later" by the -500.

Source: Flight International