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Know your aircraft types


Airbus A300

Airbus' first aircraft, the A300B, was launched at the 1969 Paris air show. It was the first widebody twinjet and could carry 226 passengers in a comfortable two-class lay-out. A stretched 250 seat version, the A300B2, requested by launch customer Air France, went into full scale production. By 1974, the A300 had been certified on budget and ahead of schedule - a major first for European companies at the time. By the end of 1975, Airbus had 10 per cent of the market and a total of 55 aircraft on order. The company then went through a dark period, during which it failed to secure any new orders. Finally, US airline Eastern Airlines decided to lease four A300B4s.

This was a turning point, and from then on, Airbus never looked back. Within two years, Airbus had 133 firm orders and market share had risen to 26 per cent by value. By the end of 1979, Airbus had 256 orders from 32 customers and 81 aircraft in service with 14 operators.

Airbus A320

Tunisair at London Heathrow October 03 Airbus A320 Tunisair at London Heathrow
The A320, launched in 1984, was the first all-new design in its category in 30 years. Incorporating new technologies, the aircraft provided better operating efficiency, better performance and - above all - greater passenger comfort thanks to a wider fuselage cross-section. It was the first commercial aircraft to feature 'fly-by-wire' controls and side sticks.

It set the standard for all subsequent Airbus cockpits and indeed for the industry as a whole. The introduction of fly-by-wire also enabled Airbus to A320 develop a family of aircraft sharing the same cockpit and the same flight handling characteristics. Airbus Industrie's experience in composite materials led to the introduction of an all-carbon fiber tail on the A320 -- which has been followed by Airbus Industrie on all subsequent aircraft.

Airbus A321 / A319

The A320 was followed in 1989 by the A321, a lengthened version, seating 185 passengers in a standard three class configuration, and, in 1992, by a 124-seat version - the A319. The single-aisle Family was completed in 1999 with the introduction of the 107-seat A318. The decision to launch the A320 proved a wise one. In spite of the recession of the mid 80s, the aircraft anticipated market demand for a modern, cost-efficient aircraft to replace older planes when the economy turned round. The new A320 was quickly chosen by Air France, British Caledonian, Adria Airways, Air Inter and Cyprus Airways. Today, it is one of Airbus' best-selling aircraft, popular with passengers and carriers alike.

A320/340 family

LanChillie at Auckland Jan 04 Airbus A340s LanChillie at Auckland
By 1987, it was clear to Airbus that the time was ripe to launch not one, but two larger aircraft in a single programme. The market was ready for a twin engine, medium-haul aircraft as well as a long range, four engine, airliner. The two new airliners share the same airframe, the same wing design and the same popular twin-aisle cross-section as the A300/A310, incorporating the proven fly-by-wire controls of the A320.

The A330 and the A340 are respectively twin engined and four engined variants of the same aircraft. Fuel consumption of the A330 is less, and maintainance is lower, but it requires costly checks and additional equipment if it is to fly for a long time over the ocean (ETOPS).

Jamacian and Virgin at LHR April 03 Airbus A340s Jamacian and Virgin at LHR
Many passengers prefer the A330/A340 over Boeing's 777 variants. The A330/A340 Family features a four-abreast arrangement in First Class, with each passenger enjoying unimpeded access to an aisle. Business Class features spacious six-abreast seating, affording each passenger an aisle or window seat (except for Qantas, which has "squeezed" in an extra row), while Economy Class passengers are generally seated in a comfortable eight-abreast layout (2+4+2 except on Emirates 3+3+3) with no passenger more than one seat away from an aisle.

Airbus A340

China Eastern Airlines at Auckland Jan 04 Airbus A340 China Eastern Airlines at Auckland
When the four-engine A340 entered service in 1993, it was the first entirely new, long-haul aircraft to start commercial operations for more than 20 years.

The A340-200 typically carries 263 passengers in three classes while the larger A340-300 carries 295. The latest version of the A340 extend the range - by extending the aircraft. It is the largest aircraft flying today. The larger of the two additional versions from 2002 is the A340-600, with 380 passengers flying up to 7,650nm. The ultra-long range, 313 seat, A340-500 has a range of up to 8,850nm.

In geographical miles, the absolute longest reach is a 10,184-mile maximum range. That means from London Heathrow Perth, Darwin and Cairns are all are within the plane's range. Sadly, none of those cities is likely to be sufficiently attractive to airlines to launch a single-hop schedule to Australia. And Sydney, choice of arrival point for most British travellers, is 380 tantalising miles beyond the aircraft's reach.

British West Indies Airlines A340 LHR August 02 Airbus A340 British West Indies Airlines LHR

Since entering service the A340 has joined the fleets of 17 different airlines worlwide and has carried more than nine million passengers. Major operators include Airlanka, Kuwait Airways, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Gulf Air, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Austrian Airlines, Air Mauritius, Turk Hava Yollari, Air France, TAP Air Portugal, Iberia, and Sabena.

Airbus A330

Yemen Airways A310 at LHR August 04 Airbus A310 Yemen Airways at LHR
The twin-engine A330 which joined the A340 a year later combined some of the lowest operating costs of any aircraft ever designed with maximum flexibility for a wide range of route structures.

The base model is the A330-300, which first entered service in early 1994. It typically seats 335 passengers (295 in 3 classed) and can fly up to 5,600nm. It was joined in 1998 by the A330-200, which offers long range capability of up to 6,650 nm but seats fewer - 253 passengers in three classes.

Airbus A380

In December 2000, Airbus launched the 555-seat A380 superjumbo programme at the top end of the spectrum. This all-new double-decker aircraft is the most
Luxor Airways at Sydney April 03 Airbus A330 Luxor Airways at Sydney
advanced, spacious and efficient airliner ever conceived, and the solution to growing traffic between major hubs. The idea is the A380 superjumbo will provide 15 to 20 per cent lower operating costs, 10 to 15 per cent more range, lower fuel burn, less noise and lower emissions than the largest aircraft flying today.


Boeing 707

After the Air Force agreed to let Boeing build commercial jets based on the prototype, 367-80, already the basis for the KC-135 military tanker, airlines began to order the 707, the commercial transport variant of the Dash 80. The 707 and the KC-135 had many features in common. Both were visually distinct, with a stinger antenna pointing forward from the top of their vertical fin. Airlines wanted the 707 fuselage to be 4 inches wider than the tanker's. Its width and the 100-foot length made it the largest passenger cabin in the air. Placement of its more than 100 windows allowed airlines to rearrange seats. Location of passenger doors on the left side, at the front and at the rear of the cabin, became standard for subsequent Boeing jets. The exteriors of the 707 and its competitor, the DC-8, were almost identical, but the 707 wing had more sweepback, so it could fly about 20 mph faster. To get its market share, Boeing custom-designed 707 variants for different customers; examples include making special long-range models for Qantas Airways of Australia and installing larger engines for Braniff's high-altitude South American routes. Costs of such customizing were high, so with every version of the 707, the financial risk increased. After much effort, sales of the 707 picked up. The risk-taking paid off, and the 707 outpaced the DC-8 in sales. Although the 707s were intended as medium-range transports, they were soon flying across the Atlantic Ocean and across the continent. Boeing delivered 855 Model 707s in all versions between 1957 and 1992; of these, 725, delivered between 1957 and 1978, were for commercial use. The 707 was designated the 720B when it was modified for short-to-medium routes and for use on shorter runways. Engineers reduced the fuselage length by 9 feet, changed the leading-edge flaps and later installed turbofan engines. Boeing built 154 720s between 1959 and 1967. Its short-to-medium-range role was later filled by 727s and 737s.

First flight: Dec. 20, 1957 Model number: 707-120 Classification: Commercial transport Span: 130 feet 10 inches Length: 144 feet 6 inches Gross weight: 248,000 pounds Cruising speed: 600 mph Range: 3,000 miles Ceiling: 41,000 feet Power: Four 13,500-pound-thrust P&W JT3C-6 turbojet engines Accommodation: Up to 181 passengers

Boeing 727

Australian at Cairns April 03 Boeing 727 Australian at Cairns
The 727 was designed to service smaller airports with shorter runways than those used by the 707s. Of all the early Boeing jets, the 727 had the most distinctive appearance, with its rakish T-shaped tail and its trio of rear-mounted engines. It flew to every corner of the world and carried billions of passengers on everything from short hops to cross-country flights. Its T-tail allowed it to climb fast, fly fast and descend fast without unnecessary vibrations. The 727 was the first Boeing jetliner to undergo rigorous fatigue testing, the first to have completely powered flight controls, the first to use triple-slotted flaps and the first to have an auxiliary power unit (APU). The APU was a small gas turbine engine that eliminated the need for ground power or starting equipment in the more primitive airports of developing countries. The first 727 rolled out Nov. 27, 1962, bearing the same lemon-yellow and copper-brown color scheme as the Dash 80. However, by the time of its first flight, orders were still below the estimated break-even point of 200. To help spur sales, Boeing sent a 727 on a 76,000-mile tour of 26 countries. Originally, Boeing planned to build 250 of the planes. However, after being shown to the world, they proved so popular (especially after the larger 727-200 model, which carried up to 189 passengers, was introduced) that a total of 1,832 were produced at the Renton plant. Variants included a convertible passenger-cargo model with a Quick Change (QC) option - seats and galleys attached to removable pallets.

First flight: Feb. 9, 1963 Model number: 727-100 Classification: Commercial transport Span: 108 feet Length: 133 feet 2 inches Gross weight: 170,000 pounds Top speed: 632 mph Cruising speed: 570 mph Range: 3,110 miles Ceiling: 36,100 feet Power: Three 14,000-pound-thrust P&W engines Accommodation: 131 passengers

Boeing 737

LOT Polish Airlines 737 at LHR Aug 03 Boeing 737-200 LOT Polish Airlines at LHR
The smaller, short-range 737 twinjet was the logical airplane to complement the 707 and the 727. There was increasing demand for transports in its category, but the 737 faced heavy competition from the Douglas DC-9 and the BAC-111. To save production time, and get the plane on the market as soon as possible, Boeing gave the 737 the same upper-lobe fuselage as the 707 and 727, so the same upper-deck cargo pallets could be used for all three jets. The 737 later adopted the 727's cargo convertible features, which allowed the interior to be changed from passenger to cargo use in the 737-200 series.
Tarom at LHR Aug 04 Boeing 737-500 Tarom at LHR

The 737 had six-abreast seating - a selling point, because this way it could take more passengers per load - the DC-9 seated five abreast. The number of seats in the 737 also was increased by mounting the engines under the wing. This engine placement buffered some of the noise, decreased vibration and made it easier to maintain the airplane at ground level. Like the 727, the 737 could operate self-sufficiently at small airports and on remote, unimproved fields. The plane's performance in these conditions led to orders in Africa. Later, airlines in Central and South America, Asia and Australia bought the versatile jet.

At first, the 737 was called the "square" airplane because it was as long as it was wide. The new technology made the position of flight engineer redundant; the 737's two-person flight deck became standard among air carriers. Nineteen 737-200s, modified as T-43 navigator trainers, served with the Air Force, and the last 737-200 was delivered Aug 8, 1988. On June 12, 1987, the plane that had to play catch-up did; its orders surpassed the 727, making it the most-ordered plane in commercial history.

Fiji at Auckland Jan 04 Boeing 737-800 Fiji at Auckland
Not all 737s are the same. The old version is the 737-100/200. From 1991, the only models were the 737-300, -400 and -500. Now the company makes the -600, -700, -800 and -900 (Basically, the small, medium, and large. The -700 is the industry standard, seating 149. Very few airlines fly the -900, the Xl, seating over 200 in a one isle layout. Its not expected to be a best seller). The 737-700 is exactly the same size as a 737-300, but has better wings, so flies 10% faster, saving about 20 minutes on a flight from LHR to Athens.

First flight: April 9, 1967 Model number: 737-100/200 Classification: Commercial transport Span: 93 feet Length: 93 feet 9 inches Gross weight: 111,000 pounds Cruising speed: 580 mph Range: 1,150 miles Ceiling: 35,000 feet Power: Two 14,000-pound-thrust P&W JT8D-7 engines Accommodation: 2 crew, up to 107 passengers

Boeing 747

During the late 1960s, some 50,000 Boeing people belonged to a group called "The Incredibles." These were the construction workers, mechanics, engineers, secretaries and administrators who made aviation history by building the 747 - the largest civilian airplane in the world - in less than 16 months.
Transjet 747 at Stockholm Arlanda April 03 Boeing 747-200 Transjet at Stockholm Arlanda

The incentive for creating the giant 747 came from reductions in air fares, an explosion in air-passenger traffic and increasingly crowded skies. In addition, Boeing had already developed the design concepts and technology of such an airplane because the company had bid on, but lost, the contract for a gigantic military transport, the C-5A. The 747's final design was offered in three configurations: all passenger, all cargo and a convertible passenger/freighter model. The freighter and convertible models loaded 8- by 8-foot cargo containers through the huge hinged nose.

The 747 was truly monumental in size. The massive airplane required construction of the 200-million-cubic-foot 747 assembly plant in Everett, Wash., the world's largest building (by volume). The fuselage of the original 747 was 225 feet long; the tail as tall as a six-story building. Pressurized, it carried a ton of air. The cargo hold had room for 3,400 pieces of baggage and could be unloaded in seven minutes. The total wing area was larger than a basketball court. Yet, the entire global navigation system weighed less than a modern laptop computer.

Pilots prepared for the 747 at Boeing training school. The experience of taxiing such a large plane was acquired in a contraption called "Waddell's Wagon," named after Jack Waddell, the company's chief test pilot. The pilot sat in a mockup of the 747 flight deck built atop three-story-high stilts on a moving truck. The pilot learned how to maneuver from such a height by directing the truck driver below him by radio. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration later modified two 747-100s into Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. The next version, the 747-200, holds approximately 440 passengers and has a range of about 5,600 nautical miles. In 1990, two 747-200Bs were modified to serve as Air Force One and replaced the VC-137s (707s) that served as the presidential airplane for nearly 30 years.

Fiji Air Pacific at LHR Dec 03 Boeing 747-400 Fiji Air Pacific at LHR

The 747-300 has an extended upper deck and carries even more passengers than the -200. The 747-400 rolled out in 1988. Its wingspan is 212 feet, and it has 6-foot-high "winglets" on the wing tips. The 747-400 also is produced as a freighter, as a combination freighter and passenger model, and as a special domestic version, without the winglets, for shorter-range flights.

First flight: Feb. 9, 1969 Model number: 747-100/-200 Classification: Commercial transport Span: 195 feet 8 inches Length: 231 feet 4 inches Gross weight: 735,000 pounds Cruising speed: 640 mph Range: 6,000 miles Ceiling: 45,000 feet Power: Four 43,000-pound-thrust P&W JT9D-3 engines Accommodation: 33 attendants, 374 to 490 passengers

Boeing 757

Ethiopian Airways 757 at Copenhagen October 03 Boeing 757 Ethiopian Airways at Copenhagen
The twin-engine, medium-range 757 is up to 80 percent more fuel efficient than the older 727 jetliners it was designed to replace, but retains the 727's short-field capability. The 757-200 carries up to 228 passengers and has a range of approximately 3,900 nautical miles. The 757 and the 767 were developed concurrently, so both shared the same technological advances in propulsion, aerodynamics, avionics and materials. Flight decks of the 757 and 767 are nearly identical, so pilots can easily qualify to fly both. The first 757 rolled out of the Renton factory in 1982. By 1990, airlines around the world had ordered more than 600 of them. On March 29, 1991, a 757, powered by only one of its engines, took off, circled and landed at the 11,621-foot-high Gongga Airport in Tibet. The airplane performed perfectly although the airfield was in a box canyon surrounded by peaks more than 16,400-ft high. In 1996, the company launched a new version of the 757 twinjet. The new 757-300 seats up to 280 passengers and has about 10 percent lower seat-mile operating costs than the -200, which has the lowest seat-mile operating cost in its market segment. The first 757-300 was delivered in1999. More than 1,000 757s have been delivered since 1982.

First flight: Feb. 19, 1982 Model number: 757-200 Classification: Commercial transport Span: 124 feet 10 inches Length: 155 feet 3 inches Gross weight: 255,000 pounds Top speed: 609 mph Cruising speed: 500 mph Range: 3,200 to 4,500 miles Ceiling: 42,000 feet Power: Two 37,000- to 40,100-pound-thrust RB.211 Rolls-Royce or 37,000- to 40,100-pound-thrust 2000 series P&W engines Accommodation: 200 to 228 passengers

 ElAl 767 at LHR August 04 Boeing 767 ElAl at LHR

Boeing 767

The 767, built in Washington alongside the 747, complements the 747 in the medium- to long-range market and can carry approximately 220 passengers. The 767 is a wide-body, double- aisle jet, but, like the smaller standard-body 757, is designed for fuel efficiency. Both planes have nearly identical digital cockpits, allowing crews to be easily qualified on both. The extended-range version 767-300 covers distances of more than 6,000 nautical miles.

In December 1991, Boeing offered a modified 767 commercial jetliner as the platform for its Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), previously carried aboard the 707. In January 1993, Boeing

Malev 737 at LHR April 03 Boeing 737 Malev at LHR
started to build the 767 Freighter, an all-cargo version of the 767-300, which rolled out in May 1995 and was first delivered in October 1995. In January 1997, the company announced a new extended-range version of the 767.

The new 767-400ER entered commercial service in 2000 and is capable of carrying more than 300 passenger in a two-class configuration.

First flight: Sept. 26, 1981 Model number: 767-200 Classification: Commercial transport Span: 156 feet 1 inches Length: 159 feet 2 inches Gross weight: 300,000 pounds Cruising speed: 550 mph Range: 3,840 to 7,800 miles Ceiling: 43,199 feet Power: Two 48,000- or 50,000-pound-thrust P&W JT9D-R4D or 57,900-pound-thrust GE CF6-80A2 engines Accommodation: 216 to 290 passengers

Boeing 777

The Model 777, the first entirely new Boeing airplane in more than a decade, was delivered in May 1995. Market demand sized, shaped and launched the 777, created to be the most preferred airliner in the medium-sized aircraft category. As the world's largest twinjet, it carries 305 to 440 people and has a range of 4,560 miles, and all 777 versions fly higher than their Airbus equivalents. Airlines could use two levels of engine thrust, according to their needs, and the 777 engines were made by three different companies. By the end of 1997, 364 of the 777s had been ordered by more than 20 airlines. The increased-gross-weight, longer-range 777, called the 777-200IGW, capable of flying the same number of passengers as the -200 up to 8,320 miles, was first delivered in February 1997. Delivery of the first 777-300, a stretched version, was set for spring 1998. The 777 is the widest, most spacious airplane in its class and includes improvements in airfoil technology, flight deck design, passenger comfort and interior flexibility. Its greater payload and range capability result in lower operating costs to airlines and its standard equipment includes many features that are optional on other airliners.

First flight: June 12, 1994 Model number: 777-200 Classification: Commercial transport Span: 199 feet 11 inches Length: 209 feet 1 inch Gross weight: 506,000 pounds Cruising speed: 615 mph Range: 4,210 to 8,270 miles Ceiling: 37,900 feet Power: Two 74,500-/77,200-pound-thrust P&W 4074/4077 engines, two 74,500-/76,400-pound-thrust GE90-75B/76B engines, or two 74,600-/76,900-pound-thrust RR Trent 875/877 engines Accommodation: 305 to 440 passengers