Solutions that have become world standards
Since the introduction of jet-powered airliners, the air transport sector has achieved significant improvements in economic efficiency and environmental performance.
Over the last 40 years, the aviation industry has cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 70 per cent, NOx emissions by 90 per cent and noise by 75 per cent. During these same four decades, innovation has been a key driver in Airbus’ own success as a world-leading manufacturer of commercial aircraft. From its cornerstone A300 to the new-generation A350 XWB, Airbus has been continually implementing new ideas.
In fact, Airbus has played a key role in the international air transport industry’s evolution. Achievements – such as improving manufacturing techniques, developing global cooperation and reducing aviation’s environmental impact – result from Airbus’ ability to understand market and passenger expectations, and answer them with solutions that have become world standards.
A history of innovation
At a time when other manufacturers were concentrating on three- or four-engine aircraft, Airbus entered the civil aviation scene in the 1970s by developing the first-ever widebody twin-engine: the A300. This aircraft featured low fuel consumption, highly efficient operating costs and reduced external noise levels, and incorporated Category 3 landing technology along with enhanced passenger comfort in the cabin and containerised cargo handling.
During the early 1980s, Airbus improved the A300 with a new concept of forward-facing crew cockpits – bringing the crew to two pilots while also improving safety and introducing new standards for civil aircraft. The company then developed a shortened version of the A300: the A310. This was the first commercial widebody to be certified for two-man crew operations from the beginning, as well as the initial aircraft to use composites for primary structure components. Later in the decade, Airbus broke new ground with the A320 – which set standards for efficiency and cabin comfort, while introducing fly-by-wire flight technology and side-stick controls into civil aviation.
Airbus introduced the ultra-efficient A330 and A340 aircraft for the medium and long-range markets in the early 1990s, well known throughout the industry for their very low operating costs per seat.
Airbus’ 21st century flagship A380 marked a new era with its 2007 service introduction. Not only has it set new passenger comfort standards, the aircraft is raising the bar for eco-efficiency with its low fuel consumption and noise levels – as well as reduced CO2 and NOx emissions.
The A350 XWB – which entered commercial service in January 2015 – continues Airbus’ approach to innovation. Next-generation manufacturing and assembly techniques are being used in its production, while composites, titanium and aluminium alloys are applied in the A350 XWB’s fuselage. The jetliner’s advanced wing is built primarily from carbon composite materials, and its design combines aerodynamic enhancements already validated on the A380 – with further improvements developed by Airbus engineers.
Ahead of the curve
Airbus has always embraced a forward-thinking approach, with the environmental aspects of its products a priority. Reducing noise and fuel consumption – and thus emissions – as well as managing the full lifecycle of its aircraft all are major objectives. In addition, Airbus is the first aircraft manufacturer to have each of its sites and products awarded ISO 14001-certified status.
To support growth, Airbus has developed a logistics system to move components over Europe using the specially-designed A300-600ST Beluga cargo aircraft, ships and road transportation vehicles.
Airbus also revolutionised the industry by convincing European partners and suppliers to develop and manufacture aircraft components while assembling the jetliner on a single final assembly line. Today, Airbus’ global production network includes final assembly lines for its commercial and military aircraft in France, Germany, Spain and China, with another to be established in the U.S.