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Airbus A300 Tunisair
An Airbus A300-600R of Tunisair 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. A total of 561 aircraft has been built.

During the late Fifties and Sixties Europe counted a large number of aircraft manufacturers building jet airliners, but all of them built their products in rather small numbers. Examples are the Hawker Siddeley Trident, the Vickers VC-10, the BAC One-Eleven, the Dassault Mercure and the Fokker F28. Most successful was the Sud Aviation Caravelle, with 282 built.

While in the mid-1960s the big US airliner manufacturers were competing in the CX-HLS military transport contest, which resulted in the Lockheed C-5A Galaxy military transport giant, their European counterparts studied 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 those of the Boeing 727-100. This initiative led to the formation of several cooperating groups of manufacturers. Hawker Siddeley, Breguet and Nord Aviation together proposed the HBN-100, a widebody aircraft with two engines under the wing and 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 closely 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. The airlines, however, 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 in a new engine 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 was a more suitable 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 which had ordered the CF6-powered McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30.

Airbus Industrie is set up

In December 1970 the consortium 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 assembly 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 make standard LD3 luggage containers fit 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 could be guaranteed.

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

Difficult years

The Airbus A300 started selling slowly. Until 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 the US carrier Eastern Airlines in August 1977. Easy was very satisfied about the performance of the aircraft and in April 1978 ordered 19 (plus nine options) in April 1978 and Eastern also bought the four A300s it had on trial. Since then Airbus Industrie received more orders from several new customers and in the year 1978 airlines signed contracts for 70 aircraft (plus 27 options). At that time the total number sold was 128 (plus 53 options).

Airbus A300 Iran Air

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

Of the Airbus A300 several main versions exist:


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


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


The Airbus A300B4 is a heavier, longer-range variant of the B2 with extra fuel capacity, and soon became the standard production version. 189 were built. The A300C4 is a convertible passenger/cargo variant of the B4 with a maindeck cargo door and a strengthened cabin floor. This version can also be flown in a mixed passenger/cargo configuration. The first example went to the German charter airline Hapag-Lloyd Flug in 1980.


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 adopting the A310's more efficiently designed rear fuselage section.


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 replaced the Super-Guppy, a converted Boeing Stratocruiser, which was used for this task during the first years of Airbus Industrie. Thanks to its wide fuselage the Beluga 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 and its A310 stablemate ended in July 2007 with the delivery of the last built aircraft to Federal Express. Airbus sold a total of 561 A300s and in Summer 2014 268 were still in service. After conversion many ex-passenger A300s have found 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


Airbus A300 Lufthansa


Airbus A300 Kuwait Airways

Technical Specifications



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