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Airbus A300 Tunis Air
An Airbus A300-600R of Tunis Air at Düsseldorf Airport.

Airbus A300

The Airbus A300 is a twin-engined widebody airliner for short and medium range flights, seating around 250-300 passengers. In sales numbers it is the first large European jetliner with real success on the world market.

While in the mid-1960s some American aircraft manufacturers were competing in the CX-HLS military transport contest, European manufacturers were studying on ideas for a large-capacity short-range airliner. In November 1965 the British and the French governments outlined a specification for a 200-225 passenger aircraft with 30 per cent lower operating costs than the Boeing 727-100. This initiative led to the formation of several groups of manufacturers. Hawker Siddeley, Breguet and Nord Aviation proposed the HBN-100, a widebody aircraft with two engines under the wing seating 225-261 passengers. Sud Aviation and Dassault in France designed the similarly looking 'Galion'.

Financial support

The governments chose the HBN-100 for further development, but the French government coupled Sud Aviation to Hawker Siddeley instead of Nord, because Sud already cooperated with Hawker on the Concorde supersonic transport project. In September 1966 Hawker and Sud started talks with German manufacturers, which jointly formed Deutsche Airbus GmbH. Subsequently the partners asked their governments financial support for the development of the airliner. The project became now known as 'A300'.

On 9 May 1967 ministers of the three countries agreed on French design leadership, on the British condition that the new Rolls-Royce RB.207 engine would power the aircraft. However, this engine was actually too powerful and too expensive for the proposed airliner. To fulfill the British condition and to keep seat-mile costs as low as possible the A300 grew to over 300 seats, but airlines appeared not to be interested in such a big aircraft.

Downscaling to A300B

When McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed started the development of their DC-10 and TriStar respectively, Rolls-Royce saw better perspectives for a new engine intended for these widebodies than for the A300 and stopped work on the RB.207. Instead it launched the smaller RB.211, which was chosen by Lockheed for the TriStar. The RB.211 also appeared a better option for the A300, which was soon scaled down to the smaller 'A300B' with around 250 seats.

Because of the still lukewarm airline interest the British government lost faith in the proposed European airliner and in March 1969 left the project. France and Germany continued, however, and on 29 May 1969 French and German ministers signed an agreement for the go-ahead of the development of the Airbus A300B. Now that the British government had withdrawn, the Roll-Royce RB.211 was dropped in favour of the General Electric CF6-50, which offered commonality to European airlines that had ordered the CF6-powered DC-10-30.

Airbus Industrie is set up

In December 1970 Airbus Industrie was officially set up by Aérospatiale (the result of a merger between Sud Aviation and Nord Aviation) and Deutsche Airbus. In spite of the lack of government support Hawker Siddeley decided to stay as a partner in the project and became responsibe for the design and production of the wings. Soon CASA of Spain and Fokker-VFW of The Netherlands joined with 2 and 6.6 per cent stakes respectively. The final production line was set up in Toulouse, France, and the production work was divided between the partners. During the further development of the A300B the only important design change was a 9 cm increase in fuselage diameter to fit LD3 luggage containers in the belly cargo compartment. This type of container was also used in the 747, DC-10 and TriStar so that easy transfer of cargo and luggage at hub airports was guaranteed.

In spite of the early start of widebody airliner studies in Europe, the A300 didn't fly for the first time earlier than 28 October 1972. Air France performed the first revenue flight with the type on 23 May 1974 between London and Paris.

Difficult years

The Airbus A300 started selling slowly. Late 1977 only 53 aircraft were sold (plus 41 options) and during that year production fell to less than one aircraft a month. The breakthrough came with a trial lease of four A300s by Eastern Airlines in August 1977. This resulted in an order for 19 aircraft (plus nine options) in April 1978 and Eastern also bought the four A300s it had on trial. Airbus Industrie now soon received more orders from several airlines and 1978 ended with a total of 128 orders (including deliveries) and 53 options in the books.

Airbus A300 Iran Air

An Airbus A300-600R of Iran Air approaches Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.


Of the Airbus A300 several main versions exist:

A300B1

This was the first and smallest version of the A300B. Only two aircraft were built. The first was the Airbus test aircraft, the other was operated by TEA Trans European Airlines of Belgium.

A300B2

The first version to enter service was the A300B2 of which 59 examples were built until 1983.

A300B4/C4

The Airbus A300B4 is heavier than the B2 and soon became the standard production version. The A300C4 is a convertible passenger/cargo variant of the B4 with a maindeck cargo door and strengthened cabin floor. Only a small number of aircraft were built with these features. The first one went to the German charter airline Hapag-Lloyd Flug in 1980. It could also be flown in a mixed passenger/cargo configuration.

A300-600

The Airbus A300-600 is an improved derivative, which first flew on July 8 1983 and entered service in March 1984. Like the A310 it has a two-crew digital flightdeck and seating capacity is slightly increased by taking over the A310's rear fuselage and tail.

A300-600R/F

The A300-600R offers increased fuel capacity, heavier weights and more range. The A300-600R's maiden flight took place on December 9 1987 and it was followed by the development of the A300-600F freighter, which first flew in December 1993. During the last years of production Airbus only built the A300-600F for package carriers like Federal Express and UPS.

A300-600ST Beluga

A very special version is the A300-600ST (Super Transporter) Beluga, first flown on 13 September 1994 and put in service about a year later. It was developed to carry large aircraft parts between the factories of Airbus-partners and other over-sized or voluminous cargo. The Beluga replaces the Super-Guppy, a converted Boeing Stratocruiser, which was earlier used for this task. Thanks to the wide fuselage it can take large cargo loads, including wings and aircraft fuselage sections. For A380-fuselage sections the Beluga cargo compartment is not big enough, however. Five Beluga's were built.

Production of the Airbus A300 ended in July 2007 with the delivery of the final aircraft to Federal Express. In the Airbus product catalogue the A300-600F will be replaced by the A330-200F. After conversion many older passenger A300s find a new life as a cargo plane.

Airbus A300 TNT
TNT flies this Airbus A300 which was converted to become a freighter.








A300 photos

Airbus A300 Carnival Airlines

A300B2/B4


Airbus A300 Lufthansa

A300-600/600R


Airbus A300 Kuwait Airways



Technical Specifications



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