Airbus Aircraft Identification Guide
Airbus is a giant conglomerate of aviation businesses which, over time, were all rolled into one through mergers and purchases. As the company’s website states:
“Airbus is an international reference in the aerospace sector. We design, manufacture and deliver industry-leading commercial aircraft, helicopters, military transports, satellites and launch vehicles, as well as providing data services, navigation, secure communications, urban mobility and other solutions for customers on a global scale.
With a forward-looking strategy based on cutting-edge technologies, digital and scientific excellence, we aim for a better-connected, safer and more prosperous world.”
We’ve put together a limited look at Airbus’s history in the commercial airframe market along with multiple military transports with roots from commercial designs, for your information and enjoyment.
A-220 is the Canadian-designed medium ranged airliner built in two versions, the baseline -100 series and the stretched -300 series. The pair of versions are currently in production.
The A-300 was the original medium-ranged, large jet transport with which Airbus Industries began manufacturing airliners. After the original versions, the A-300-600 series was produced with updated engines and systems. Many freighters are still flying today, comprising of some originally produced cargo aircraft and some passenger jets which were converted for cargo.
The A-310 was a scaled-down A-300 with longer range. Two main versions were produced; the later A-310-300 was a true intercontinental airliner with added endurance, and a competitor the Boeing’s early B-767s. Militarized A-310s are known as the MRTT (Multi Role Tanker/Transport).
The A-320 is a standard short to medium ranged, mid-sized airliner. It is a direct rival to Boeing’s B-737. Multiple designs of this basic airframe yielded two smaller versions – the A-318 short range airliner, and the slightly bigger A-319. Size-wise, the A-321 is a stretched A-320… some of the A-321s have intercontinental range too. Today, the A-318 is out of production, but new A-320neo and A-321neo versions have more fuel efficient engines and better economics. Only the A-318 is out of production today.
The A-330 was built in two versions too, the smaller -200 series and the larger -300 series. There are some new build-A-330-800s and 900s still in production, which are updated -200 and -300 variants. Militarized versions have been built, again as a multi-role tanker/transport. The KC-45 would have been the next generation USAF tanker if not for a messy competition with Boeing; today’s MRTT versions include the Australian KC-30 and the RAF’s Voyager.
The A-340 is a 4-engined transport which has ended production, mainly due to the unfavorable operating economics of 4 engines versus two larger engines. Shorter versions were the A-340-200 and -300, while the A-340 -500 and -600 were stretched versions. The A-340-500 was the longest-ranged airliner in the world when introduced, and Singapore Airlines flew the longest commercial route – Singapore to Newark with the -500 series.
The new A-350 twin jet is the new flagship of Airbus, with the A-350-900XWB (Xtra Wide Body) and ULR (Ultra Long Range) versions, and the stretched A-350-1000. The A-350-900 ULR is now the longest ranged production airliner, according to Airbus.
The Super Jumbo A-380-800 is the ultimately large airliner… although the type will end production this year after more than 200 of these were built. The double-decked four jet transport was planned as a freighter too, but that version never was produced.
A modern military strategic airlifter with tactical capabilities is the Airbus A-400M. Powered by four turboprop engines, the size of this airlifter fits in the middle of two well known aircraft… Boeing’s C-17 and the Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules. A fair number of A-400Ms are operated by European countries.
A smaller transport, formerly built by EADS, is the CN-295. Its niche is in smaller loads of cargo and troops than what is carried than a C-130, but large enough to be used around the world for transport, search and rescue and maritime patrol too.