The 340 shared several manufacturing and design techniques used in Saab’s military aircraft
The Saab 340 is a Swedish twin-engine turboprop aircraft designed and originally manufactured by a Saab AB-Fairchild Aircraft partnership. Under the initial arrangement, Saab built the all-aluminum fuselage and vertical stabilizer together with the aircraft’s final assembly in Linköping, Sweden, while Fairchild was responsible for the wings, empennage, and wing-mounted nacelles for the two turboprop engines. The production of these components was transferred to Sweden after Fairchild stopped this work.
The Saab 340 conducted its maiden flight on January 25, 1983. An enlarged airliner derivative, known as the Saab 2000, was introduced in the early 1990s. Sales of the type, however, declined due to intense competition on the regional market for aircraft. Saab decided to end the Saab 340 production in 1998.
Swedish aircraft manufacturer Saab AB became more and more interested in the market for civil aircraft during the 1970s. In 1974, the company decided to continue to develop its first major civilian aircraft, having previously focused on military aircraft almost entirely. During the late 1970s, internal studies had determined that a short-haul airliner should be optimised to seat around 30 passengers.
It was also decided to use turboprop propulsion, which was slower but more economical than turbofan engines, and to optimize the airliner in order to take advantage of this type of power plant.
The selection of a turboprop engine, according to author Gunnar Eliasson, made the type less attractive to airlines than to jet-powered competitors, but admitted that the General Electric CT7-5A2 engine picked was quite competitive with the jet engines of that era. As planned, within its short-haul role, the airliner was to match the performance of jets.
The regional airliner venture had become Sweden’s largest industrial venture by the end of the 1970s and was recognized as too big for Saab to conduct alone. As a result, it was announced in January 1980 that Saab had entered into a partnership agreement with US manufacturer Fairchild Aircraft to develop and manufacture the upcoming regional airliner.
Under this partnership, Fairchild was responsible for manufacturing sections such as the wings, tail unit, and engine nacelles, while Saab was responsible for 75% of development, system integration, and certification costs.
The 340 shared several manufacturing and design techniques used in Saab’s military aircraft, such as the multirole combat aircraft Saab JAS 39 Gripen, which was then in-developed. One such technique was to eliminate the use of rivets on aluminum structures to reduce weight, instead using diffusion bonding.
The first 340 made its maiden flight on January 25, 1983. The Saab 340 became the world’s best-selling commuter aircraft shortly after its launch on the market in 1984. By 1987, all of Fairchild’s activities on the program had stopped, the U.S. company had chosen to curtail its aircraft activities, making Saab solely responsible for the 340’s production.
The initial production models were designated as “Model 340A” which, depending on the seating arrangement, could seat up to 36 passengers while being powered by 2x General Electric CT7-5A2 turboprop engines with 1,735 horsepower output. Saab also sold this aircraft’s VIP and cargo versions to help broaden the product’s market appeal.
Then followed the Model 340B and in most respects, this was similar to the A-model, but instead switched to the General Electric CT7-9B engines. It was typically has a length of 19.73 m, Wingspan of 21.44 m, and a Height of 6.97 m. The empty weight was 8.1 tons, and Maximum takeoff weight of 13.1 tons. It can reach a top speed of 502 km/h, a cruise speed of 467 km/h, and a range of 1,732 km.
In the following decades, a large number of 340s remained in commercial service even after production was completed. By 2006, there was a resurgence in demand for turboprop-powered airliners, partly due to rising oil prices; during this year, Saab announced the largest ever lease deal for the Saab 340, providing Australian operator Regional Express Airlines with a total of 25 Saab 340s.
By the end of 2010, Saab assessed the possibility of extending the 340’s certified lifespan, which is typically limited to 60,000 hours under the Maintenance Review Board programme ; the company believes that the maintenance program could be extended to accommodate up to a limit of 75,000 hours.
Over the next decade, the existing aircraft remained relatively active and competitive. Saab Model 340 served industry players including Regional Express Airlines, SkyBahamas Airliners, Silver Airways and Loganair.
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