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No Hope for A310-300 Values

November 8, 2021

Although the B797 may be seen as something of a partial replacement for the A310, this does not mean that the values of the A310 are able to enjoy a renaissance – rather the reverse.

Just as the market for widebodies shows some prospect of improvement as international routes open up once more, the pressure on A310 values continues.

The decline in the -300 fleet over the years says it all. The aircraft was converted to freighter but a reasonable number remained in the passenger role. The aircraft performs well at least for some operators but in terms of asset value, such a concept as a small widebody has long since passed for the -300. Boeing is working hard to create a longer-range version of the B797 but this more seeks to compete with the A321 than act a replacement for the B767-200 and A310. The market may not need such an aircraft today but when the B797 arrives in some six years, the market structure will have changed such that if the A310 was in production it would be much in demand. As a widebody on longer sectors, passenger comfort can be enhanced particularly in terms of business class.

The A310-300 was developed as a means of increasing the range of the basic -200. The extra range was achieved by increasing the MTOW to an initial 150 tonnes and adding extra fuel tanks in the tailplane. The position of the extra fuel improved the center of gravity and therefore increased fuel efficiency, as much as 1.5 percent. To achieve even longer range additional center tanks (one or two) can be fitted to increase the fuel capacity from 16,130 US gallons to a maximum 19,940 US gallons. The ACT’s could be removed or installed overnight and the tank and fuel system had its interface at the cargo compartment wall. There is also a removable bulkhead installed behind the tank.

A310-300 Vital Statistics
LAUNCH 07/1978 (-200) STANDARD MTOW 150tonne LIST PRICE N/A
SERVICE ENTRY 12/1985 FUEL CAPACITY 16,133usg VALUE Y1988,153t CF6 $0.4m
ORDERS 163 (-300) FUEL – OPTIONAL 19,937usg VALUE Y1995,153t CF6 $0.7m
DELIVERIES 163 (-300) RANGE–295pax LGW 4,300nm VALUE TREND Decline
IN SERVICE 15 RANGE- 295pax HGW 5,984nm 2025 F/V – Y1988 0.0
OPERATORS 12 (including governments) CARGO 3,605cf 2025 F/V – Y1995 0.0
ENGINE TYPES PW4000, JT9D, CF6 PAYLOAD 32.3tonne LEASE RATE – DoM 1992 $40,000pm
VARIANTS -300, -300F MZFW-STD 113tonne RENTAL TREND Stable
D CHECK COST $2.3m MLW-STD 123tonne 2025 LEASE RATE –DoM 1992 $40,000pm



The first aircraft to be certificated with the ACT’s was a Wardair model in 1987. The A310-300 is certificated for 180 minute ETOP’s operations but additional equipment is required in the form of a fourth AC generator and an extra cargo hold fire suppression bottle which has been demonstrated to provide 260 minutes flow (ETOP’s rules require a time equal to the maximum diversion time plus 15 minutes).

The powerplant of the -300 was initially a choice between the CF6-80C2A2 (53,500lbs), the -80C2A8 (59,000lbs) and the JT9D. The introduction of the PW4000 changed the options to the PW4152 or the PW4156A. The -300 was offered with a number of optional MTOW’s – ranging from 153 tonnes to 164 tonnes. The higher MTOW’s result in the basic range increasing from 4,350nm to 4,800nm (157 tonnes), to 5,200nm (164 tonnes) with Pratt & Whitney engines. A310-300’s powered by General Electric engines achieve a range some 50 miles less. Wingtip fences are a standard feature on all A310-300’s. These provide a cruise drag reduction of up to 1.5 percent. Drag reduction exercises yielded incremental improvements in fuel efficiency and FADEC controlled engines provided improved performance.

At the same time as the A310 was beginning to be assembled at Toulouse, Boeing was making considerable advances with its new B767-200. As the B767-200 was initially designed around the requirements of the US operators, it was not surprising that Boeing secured orders from TWA, American, Delta and United. Few other major airlines with the route structure and capability to support the A310 existed.

The Pan Am order, rather than heralding a major breakthrough for Airbus in the US market, represented little more than a minor incursion but which would have major implications in the future after the demise of the once preeminent airline. Unfortunately, having been introduced in the early 1980’s, at some ten years of age the type was replaced by the original major carriers by the mid to late 1990s. The replacement process continued apace. Yet the operator base of the -300 remains extensive, exceeding that of types held in higher esteem. There exist many operators using either a single or only a few units. With some 32 operators spread around the world the potential exists for remarketing to a myriad of operators. Some of the A310-300s that have emerged have been acquired for non commercial operations. The French and German Governments each operate a number.

Operator Active Inactive Total
Mahan Air 7 3 10
Armée de l’Air 2 0 2
Ejército del Aire 2 0 2
IranAir 0 2 2
Al-Atheer Aviation 1 0 1
Ariana Afghan Airlines 1 0 1
Iran Airtour Airlines 1 0 1
National Legacy 0 1 1
Novespace/CNES 0 1 1
Royal Canadian Air Force 1 0 1
Taban Air 0 1 1
Toos Airline 0 1 1
Total 15 9 24

Values, after having fallen, managed to achieve a measure of stability as second tier operators sought to acquire the type but since 2007 values fell again. The smallest widebodies usually suffer from proportionately higher operating costs than slightly smaller narrowbodies (single aisle). This is due to higher structural weights, the need for greater thrust from the engines, and more aerodynamic inefficiencies. Use on international and intercontinental sectors, which usually carry substantial additional administrative and marketing costs, are more difficult to cover with limited passenger numbers.

Regional and domestic services rarely needed the capacity of even smaller widebodies. A few peak flights during the day, frequency rather than capacity and short sectors favored narrowbodies to a far greater extent. Despite initially promising orders for the longer range A310-300, operators soon turned their attention to more versatile types with lower unit costs, the B767-300ER for example. Limited interest in A310-300s, combined with excess availability arising from corporate failures such as Wardair, saw prices fall from over $60 million in the late 1980s to nearer $35 million within a few short years. Lease rates also fell from nearly $700,000 per month to less than $375,000. Values and lease rates were halved again before experiencing even further falls post 2001. The period since 2008 has seen further displacement of the A310-300 though conversion to freighter had been increasing. The A310-300 has never been a popular aircraft in the sense of achieving a large number of orders.


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