The Airbus Widebody Fuselage Cross-Section

Although the Airbus A300 is no longer in production, part of it lives on. The original fuselage cross-section of the A300 has been used on a further 13 Airbus aircraft across 3 different aircraft families, ranging in length from 47m (155ft) all the way up to 75m (246ft). As of today 2427 aircraft using the same A300 cross-section have been delivered, even though only 561 A300s were constructed. This year the same cross-section will have enjoyed 42 years of uninterrupted production, and a backlog of 363 orders for the A330neo will ensure production past 2020 at least.

 The Airbus A300 fuselage cross-section
CC BY-SA 2.5 Asiir 2002

A perfectly circular section of 5.64m (18.5ft) diameter, the A300 fuselage allows typically 8-abreast seating in economy and 2 LD3 containers side-by-side in the cargo hold.

History of the A300 Fuselage

Lets have a quick look again at all the Airbus widebodies that use this same cross-section.

The Airbus widebodies that use the A300 cross-section to scale

1974: The Airbus A300 – 54m (177ft) Long

The first Airbus aircraft, and the first widebody twin-jet. A reasonable success with 561 aircraft sold, the A300 established Airbus in the commercial aerospace market.

1983: The Airbus A310 – 47m (154ft) Long

A shortening of the A300 fuselage by a few frames, with a revised wing. A modest success, Airbus sold around 250 aircraft including an in-flight refueller version for the German Air Force.

1993: The Airbus A330 and A340 – 59m (194ft) and 64m (210ft) Long

A considerably larger aircraft than the A300, the A330/A340 platform was originally produced in 59m (A330-200, A340-200) and 64m (210ft) (A330-300, A340-300) versions. It featured a common wing fitted with two engines (A330) or four engines (A340), but retained the A300 fuselage cross-section. The A330, which has outsold the A340 by a very large margin, remains in production and is now also produced in freighter and military in-flight refuelling versions.

2002: The Airbus A340-500 and A340-600 – 68m (223ft) and 75m (246ft) Long

A significant redesign of the A340-200/300 aircraft with new engines, a higher sweep wing and extra fuselage frames. The A340-600 was for a time the longest passenger aircraft in the world at 75m (246ft) long. Perhaps a stretch too far, less than 150 aircraft were sold before production stopped.

2017: The Airbus A330-800 and A330-900 – 59m (194ft) and 64m (210ft) Long

Aiming for an in-service date of 2017 the A330-800 and A330-900 retain the respective 59m (194ft) and 64m (210ft) fuselage lengths (and fuselage cross-Section) of the original A330, but are fitted with new engines and feature numerous other improvements. Sales are currently at around 150.

Different Strategies at Airbus and Boeing

Since the A380 needed a different cross-section in order to accommodate their two decks, it has only been with the A350 that Airbus has really moved to a new, slightly wider cross-section for one of its widebodies. This was probably under pressure from the 777 to introduce 9 abreast seating, and the change to carbon-fibre structure forcing a redesign in any case.

Boeing on the other hand has adopted a very different widebody strategy, choosing to optimise each of its single-deck widebodies for specific cross sections; the 767 (5.03m, 16.5ft), 777 (6.2m, 20.4ft) and 787 (5.77m, 18.9ft) all having different cross-sections. Against this optimisation must be weighed the advantages of reduced cost and development time in using an existing cross section in multiple aircraft families. For the moment at least Boeing appears to have the advantage in widebody aircraft sales and market share, partly due to the slightly broader product range it can offer through its use of different sized aircraft.

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