Between the signing of two documents – the memorandum of understanding in July, 1967, and the A300 launch agreement in May, 1969 – the bold and visionary venture that was Airbus could have foundered at several turns.
Roger Béteille, Felix Kracht, Henri Ziegler and Franz-Josef Strauss faced repeated claims that a twin-engine passenger jet could not be operated safely over long distances. Three engines was still the accepted minimum, and in America new three-engine jets – the DC-10 and the Lockheed Tristar - were being developed which would be in direct competition to the A300.
To operate the A300, Béteille wanted a more powerful engine than was then available. Rolls-Royce was already developing a new engine, the RB211, aimed at the American market, and it pledged to build a version with more thrust, the RB207, for Airbus. As the months went on, however, it became clear that Rolls-Royce had overstretched themselves and were concentrating all their efforts – and funds – on the RB211. Development work on the RB207 had all but stopped: Airbus had no engine.
Responding to market requirements
A significant withdrawal by Britain
Germany steps up
Launch of the A300 programme
Some of Airbus’ early leaders – including Bernard Lathiere, Felix Kracht, Bernard Ziegler and Roger Beteille – reflect on the milestone A300 programme in this series of retrospective videos.