Airbus Celebrates Their 50th Year in Business; Delivers Their 12,000th Aircraft

A-340-313X

Air Tahiti Nui A-340-300

At the big Paris Air Show of 1969, a collaboration between two countries with rich aviation histories signaled the beginning of what is known today as the Airbus company. Fifty years later, in 2019, Airbus has delivered their 12,000th aircraft. Starting with one model of jetliner, the company has developed a full family of civil and military aircraft. Through the company’s aircraft design, development and production, plus a series of mergers, partnerships and company acquisitions, Airbus is a global manufacturer and distributor of civil jetliners, military helicopters, military transports, civil helicopters and corporate jets.

Through the years, eleven basic airliner models to meet future markets have been researched and a family complimentary jets have been built. Here’s a little bit of information on each one:

A-300B4-203

Finnair A-300B4 in the background

A-300 The original model of jetliner production by Airbus was the A-300. Originally a short-ranged widebody aircraft, engine limitations at the time of development saw the design shrink slightly to a 250 seat, twin jet transport. The first flight of the prototype occurred on October 28, 1972. A series of improvements for the passenger jet were made, and the original A-300B2 version was improved into the A-300B4. A later redesign was called the A-300-600.

FedEx A-300-605R freighter

Production ended for the passenger version of the A-300 in 2007, but a freighter version was also designed and produced too. Over 500 were produced.

A-310-300 of Aerolineas Argentinas

A-310 This was a smaller, but longer ranged twinjet which was a redesigned A-300. This and the Boeing B-767 transformed trans-Atlantic airline operations with ETOPS operations that allowed twin jets to fly for extended periods overwater while carrying passengers. Up until these twins were certified, one had to have at least three engines for safety over the vast ocean.

A-310-200 freighter of FedEx

A total of 255 A-310s were built, many were remanufactured into freighters after their passenger-carrying days had past.

A-310-300 MRTT of the German Air Force

There were a number of A-310s converted into military transports too.

Virgin America A-320

A-320 This was the first narrow body transport program to be undertaken by Airbus. Revolutionary due to its fly-by-wire flight controls which dropped the familiar control column in the cockpit, the twinjet was and still is a worthy competitor for the Boeing 737. The first A-320 flew in early 1987.

Lufthansa A-320Neo

A new, more efficient and environmentally friendly version, called the A-320Neo (New Engine Option) is now being delivered with new “Sharklets” on the wingtips for improved fuel conservation too.

Spirit Airlines A-319

A-319 The A-319 is a shortened A-320, with about 25 less seats in a normal configuration. The prototype first flew eight years later than the larger (and originator of the series) A-320. A A-319Neo version is being produced now, as well.

Frontier A-318

A-318 The smallest Airbus airliner until recently, the A-318 had room for slightly more than 100 seats, and was a downsized A-319. Not a very successful design, only 80 of the aircraft were built, but some are now converted into spacious corporate jetliners.

Swissair A-321

A-321 A stretched A-320 version, it can carry about 35 more passengers in its longer cabin than the A-320. Again, the narrow body jetliner is being offered in a A-321Neo version too, with more fuel efficient engines.

A-330-200 of Air Azores

A-330 A replacement for the shorter-ranged A-300, the A-330 was originally produced as the -200 series baseline version and a -300 stretched version. The first airframe flew for the first time in 1992.

A-330-300 MRTT of the Royal Air Force

There’s an A-330Neo version in production now, and a military variant is known as the A-330MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport).

A-340-300, State of Qatar

A-340 Similar to the A-330 in its initial design, this is a 4-engined long range transport built in a handful of versions. The original A-340-300 was the baseline airframe, the A-340-500 was a longer (actually the longest ranged A-340) range version that was used on Singapore Airline’s longest-airline-route-in-the-world route for a while (Singapore to Newark NJ).

A-340-600 of Virgin Atlantic Airlines

The A-340-600 is a stretched version of the -300, meant for longer ranges with more passengers aboard. Airbus will not update the A-340 into “Neo” version, as the four engine design doesn’t lend itself well for fuel conservation.

A-350-900XWB prototype at Oshkosh, Wisconsin

A-350-900XWB (Xtra Wide Body) An all-new wide body twin jet airliner that’s being built in a baseline length, as well as a stretched version (the A-350-1000XWB). The aircraft carries slightly more passengers than an A-330Neo, for a longer range. First flight was on June 14, 2013. The world’s longest regularly scheduled airline flight is between Singapore-Changi and New York-Newark aboard Singapore Airline’s A-350-900ULR , an Ultra Long Range derisive of the A-350 

A-380-800 prototype 

A-380 The world’s largest airliner by size and seating, production was recently terminated at around 280 airframes. A planned freighter has been shelved. Upwards of 550 passengers are carried on long range flights, and there are some high-density seating plans for flights to holy lands in the Middle East during times of pilgrimages.

A-220-300 at Oshkosh, Wisconsin

A-220 Airbus recently entered into an agreement to market the former Bombardier C-Series twin jets that are produced in Canada. There may be a second production line in Mobile Alabama too. Delta Airlines has put the smaller A-220-100 version into service within the past few months, with a bit over 100 seats fitted. The A-220-300 is a longer version with over 130 seats.

Airbus A-400M Atlas

CN-295 of the Polish Air Force

Airbus Helicopters H-130

Through mergers and partnerships, Airbus now builds civilian and military helicopters, and turboprop military transports too. Airbus Corporate Jets produces versions of the A-318, A-319 and A-320, as well as the A-319Neo and A-320Neo – and larger models have been converted into VIP transports too. The Airbus Defense and Space organization handles military aircraft and space, Airbus Helicopters works in the civilian rotary winged market, and Airbus is the civil air transport part of the company. 

Congratulations on your half a century of technical and marketing success, and of your 12,000th airframe delivery!

 

 

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Ken Kula

Assignment and Content Editor, writer and photographer A New Englander all of my life, I've lived in New Hampshire since 1981. My passion for all things aviation began at a very early age, and I coupled this with my interest of photography during college in the late 1970s. I spent 32 years in the air traffic control industry, and concurrently, enjoyed my aviation photography and writing adventures, which continue today. I've been quite fortunate to have been mentored by some generous and gifted individuals. I enjoy contributing to this great site, and working with some very knowledgeable and equally passionate aviation followers.

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