Airbus‘ NEO project (new engine option) has been quite successful, with both the A320 and A330 families being redesigned. However, with old planes being made into modern powerhouses, would the European giant ever consider re-engineering the A310, creating the A310neo?
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A look back
The A310 was the second aircraft type to ever be built by the aircraft manufacturer. After the successful launch of the A300, airlines asked if a shrunken 220-seater version could be made to help feed their international routes domestically across Europe. In 1983, the A310 took to the skies and became half as popular as the A300, with 255 orders during the production cycle.
The plane closely matched Boeing’s wildly popular 767 in many ways, which, after receiving ETOPS 120 (extended twin-engine operations) clearance, became the aircraft of choice for transatlantic crossings. While the A310 previously held the highest ETOPS 60 rating, it couldn’t compete on most long-haul routes that needed ETOPS 120.
Photo: kamilpetran | Shutterstock.
Learn more about ETOPS rules and the ratings here!
The A310 would go on to serve valiantly well into the modern decade, with most commercial flights only ending in 2019. However, the plane continues to serve passengers in some small markets, namely Iran and Afghanistan. Iran Air, Mahan Air, Ariana Afghan Airlines, and Iran Airtour all operate the type, primarily due to sanctions preventing the importation of newer planes from this century. They will likely stick around for a few more years but are rapidly aging.
With 255 orders, the A310 was by no means unsuccessful, with the new A330neo family garnering just over 320 orders. While it is fantastical, here’s what we think the A310neo could look like.
How would the A310neo shape up?
NEO, which stands for ‘New Engine Option,’ is about more than just attaching better and more fuel-efficient engines to popular Airbus aircraft (although that is the critical jump). Not only are most of the fleet redesigned for better fuel efficiency and passenger experience, but the projects have led to the development of whole new aircraft, like the A321XLR.
An A310neo would fall above the popular Airbus A320neo range in terms of capacity but would slot in just below the A330 series. It would find a balance for airlines who want a larger aircraft, perhaps for long-haul journeys, but without committing to the larger A330.
- A320neo family – 140-206 passengers to a range of 6,500-7,400 km
- A310neo – 220-240 passengers to a range of 10,500kms (currently 9,500km)
- A330neo – 257-330 passengers to a range of 11,800km to 13,800km
Photo: Markus Mainka | Shutterstock
Of course, recreating the A310 production line won’t be easy. However, the use of new composite materials would help in reducing weight and increase efficiency as well. Considering the similarities with the A330, the successor aircraft, it would be possible with some significant resources. As we have seen with other aircraft, primary gains would come from new engines, added seats, and a redesigned cabin.
Which airlines would be interested in an A310neo?
Let us imagine Airbus read this article and thought, “Gee, what a good idea,” and built the A310. Who would they try to sell it to? Where would it be the most effective?
- While at first, it might seem airlines who want to upgrade from the A320ceo might be interested, it is unlikely that they would really like to pay for a difference of 40 more passengers and an ‘improvement’ on the range. They would likely look towards the A320neo (or one of its variants, such as the A321neo).
- Perhaps the airlines are awaiting the Boeing 797, dubbed the “middle of the market” aircraft. The A310neo would fit in the bottom end of the gap (225-270 passengers) and be beaten by a twin-aisled 797. However, this doesn’t account for the 787 and A330neo that can fill a similar market.
Photo: kamilpetran | Shutterstock
A cautionary tale would be the A330neo, which offers similar passenger capacity but with a much longer range. With the A321XLR now filling a similar market (around 200 passengers), it would be a tough sell to convince airlines. But the ability to serve long-haul routes with a high capacity would make it competitive with the 787, which has far outstripped Airbus’ A330.
Would Airbus ever do it?
Unfortunately, designing a new aircraft is expensive, even if they are based on an old paper design (yes, the original plans of the A310 are literally on paper and would cost a small fortune to convert to digital). Airbus is pushing forward with the A321XLR and A330-800neo to fill both ends of the gap and would consider an A310neo too niche.
What do you think? Would Airbus ever build the A310?