This month marks the 40th anniversary of Airbus’ first-ever delivery – an A300B2 version handed over to Air France on 10 May 1974, which established the basis for the company’s global success and commitment to non-stop innovation.
As the world’s first twin-engine widebody commercial aircraft when the industry-accepted standard was three or four engines, the 270-seat A300B2’s pioneering design laid the foundation for Airbus’ ongoing widebody leadership with the company’s focus on incorporating technology that provided direct benefits to customers in terms of efficiency, operations and costs.
This philosophy became the cornerstone of Airbus’ entire product line, beginning with the A300/A310 jetliners, and continuing to the aircraft it has developed since: the best-selling A320 single-aisle Family; the A330 and A340 (which retained the same widebody fuselage cross-section as the A300/A310), the double-deck A380 21st century flagship; and the next-generation, extra-widebody A350 XWB jetliner.
With the A300/A310 programme, Airbus also established its reputation for non-stop product improvements and the ability to develop a true family concept. Following the A300B2, the series would later add the increased-range A300B4, along with the A310-200 and extended-range A310-300 – shortened fuselage versions of the A300 that introduced two-man crew operations. Rounding out Airbus’ cornerstone product line was the A300-600, which offered increased space, higher-power engines and a similar cockpit to the A310.
As a result, the programme’s operational lifetime has extended well into the 21st century. Airbus’ deliveries of A300/A310 aircraft continued until the programme’s final production jetliner joined FedEx’s fleet in 2007 – an A300 freighter version – closing an industrial chapter that spanned more than 30 years, during which over 800 aircraft were provided to a global operator base.
“The aircraft was conceived to operate for 30 to 40 years, and its design service goal has been extended to 40 years,” explained Gilles Desesquelles, the Head of A300/A310 Family Programme Support. “So we need to support the fleet until 2050, since a well maintained aircraft delivered in 2007 could stay in operation until then.”
In addition to being the world’s first twin-engine widebody jetliner, Airbus’ A300/A310 family introduced many other advances for civil aviation, including the use of composite materials and major steps in cockpit modernization.
Even now, the A300/A310 Family remains an Airbus pioneer, noted Philippe Boucherat, the Head of Airbus’ A300/A310 Programme. “We were the first in-service Airbus programme to provide customers with certified spare parts using 3D-printing,” he said.