The A310 marked the beginning of the “Airbus family” development and, with its lighter weight and fuel efficiency, helped attract new customers. Jean Roeder, chief engineer of Deutsche Airbus, said: “We showed the world we were not sitting on a nine-day wonder, and that we wanted to realise a family of planes…we won over customers we wouldn’t otherwise have won. The A310 supplied us with the starting point for the A300-600 we would never have had without it….What the A310 gave us was new systems technology, the efficiency and the productivity of the ‘glass cockpit’...now we had two planes that had a great deal in common as far as systems and cockpits were concerned.”
The A310 also marked Britain’s return to Airbus as a full partner. A new, smaller wing than that produced for the A300 had to be designed. Hawker Siddeley had by now been incorporated into British Aerospace, and as the British dragged their feet about commitment to the project there was talk of the A310 wing being produced elsewhere. Eventually the British government put up a reported £50 million in a repayable loan towards development costs and from January, 1979, British Aerospace took a 20 per cent stake in Airbus Industrie, roughly equivalent to the work it would gain from being part of the consortium. France and Germany’s shares went down to 37.9 per cent each, with the rest held by CASA of Spain.
An order from Sir Freddie Laker for 10 A300s in late 1978 – the first British order for Airbus aircraft – had satisfied one of the conditions of British money for the A310, that there was a British order for Airbus.
A further oil crisis in 1979 had, like the first six years earlier, focused airlines’ attention even more keenly on economy, especially fuel consumption. Demand was growing for a new short- to medium-range 150-seater aircraft which could be used to match capacity to demand more flexibly. Airbus announced its intention to build its first single-aisle, the A320.