In 1998, the government of Brunei took delivery of a very unique Airbus A340. This aircraft was the only example of the European quadjet widebody’s ‘-8000’ variant. This government had intended for this special version to go to the brother of the Sultan of Brunei, but it would eventually enter service under a different government. What exactly made the A340-8000 so unique, and where is it now?
What was the A340-8000?
According to a FlightGlobal report, Airbus developed the Airbus A340-8000 as an ultra-long-range aircraft for the Brunei royal family – in fact, it was said to have been ordered personally by the Sultan of Brunei as a gift for his brother. It was a derivative of the A340-200 – launched commercially by Lufthansa in 1993, the -200 was the first variant that Airbus introduced. The A340-8000 was to be an addition to the monarch’s growing VIP fleet of private jets.
What gave the aircraft its unique designation was the fact it was fitted with auxiliary fuel tanks. The extra fuel capacity gave it a range of more than 8,000NM (hence the name), or 14,800 km. This would enable the Sultan and his family to fly non-stop from Brunei to the USA or Europe – Airbus lists the range of the regular A340-200 as having been 6,700 NM (12,400 km).
The -8000 also featured the 275-tonne maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of the A340-300, and it could seat 239 passengers. Fit for a royal family, this variant was, of course, supposed to be configured with a luxury interior.
What happened to the A340-8000?
Airbus officially “delivered” the aircraft, whose manufacturer serial number (MSN) was 204, in November 1998. However, it did not enter service right away, instead spending several months parked at Berlin’s Schönefeld Airfield. During this time, it was in an unfitted state, and kept under the management of Lufthansa Technik.
A year after the aircraft was built, it finally had its VIP interior installed. However, the special A340 would never enter service with Brunei, eventually moving to a Lufthansa Technik facility in Hamburg. At this time, its registration changed from V8-AC3 to D-ASFB. It remained with Lufthansa Technik until February 2007, having been in storage in one form or another for nine years.
Then, in 2007, news broke that the Saudi Arabian Government had acquired the aircraft. According to Airfleets, the aircraft was delivered to its new owner on March 1st, 2007. It stayed with the Saudi government for three years, bearing the registration HZ-HMS.
In December 2010, it moved to ‘Saudi Royal Flight,’ the fleet belonging to the Saudi royal family. At this time, its registration was slightly altered, to HZ-HMS2. AIMS Airline Software reported.
The A340-8000 is now listed as parked as of September 2023, suggesting the Saudi government may be retiring the 25-year-old jet sooner rather than later. Saudi Royal Flight has another VIP A340-200 in its ranks, while the Saudi government operates a small fleet of Boeing 747, 757, 777 and 787 aircraft.
By Mian Saeed Ahmed Khan