The 12 July 2007 delivery of the last ever A300 to FedEx, the operator's last A300 Airbus widebody aircraft, marked the closure of Airbus' first production line and brought to a close a very special chapter of the company's history. The Airbus adventure started with the A300B, an innovative response to airlines' requirements. In 1972 the world's first widebody twin-aisle commercial aircraft performed its maiden flight, the first steps towards changing the face of modern aviation.
The A300B and its followers, the A300-600 and the A310, had a rather slow start, but as their reputation for economy and reliability spread among airlines, they went on to become market leaders in short to medium haul passenger operations, and the best selling freight aircraft ever. With more than 820 aircraft sold, the A300/A310 Family ultimately included variants, new build and converted freighters, combis, air tankers, military and VIP transport, and Airbus' fleet of five A300-600ST Belugas.
In 1986, Airbus took a further leap with another new program, the A-330/340. This took shape as a single airplane that could accommodate either two or four engines. The A-330 was the twinjet version; it was larger than the A-300 and the Boeing 767. The A-340 was the four-engine version. Built for long range, it served transoceanic routes that covered world-spanning distances but attracted too few travelers.
The constant design evolution across the family, along with the integration of new technology and materials, earned it a place in aviation with many industry "firsts": the first two-man forward facing cockpit for a twin-aisle, the first application of composites on secondary, then primary structures, the first use of electrical signalling for secondary controls and the introduction of both drag-reducing wingtip devices and centre of gravity control. Such innovation ensured the A300/A310 Family maintained levels of economic and operational performance that continued to attract new customers and generate airline profits well into the 21st century.
Today, a third of Airbus' customers operate A300/A310 Family aircraft as part of a wider Airbus fleet and more than 200 of the 650 aircraft currently flying with some 80 operators will still be in service in 2025. The A300/A310 Long Term Support team will ensure that maximum customer satisfaction is maintained throughout the lifecycle of the A300/A310 Family.
The A300-600 is the benchmark for operating economy in its size category, with direct operating costs per seat (including ownership costs) up to 9 per cent lower than those of the nearest competitor. A major advantage is its profitability at the upper end of the mid-size jetliner category. With up to 28 more seats than its nearest competitor and offering more practical use of the underfloor hold volume, the A300-600 has substantially greater revenue-generating potential. With the same passenger load factor, one A300-600 makes $1.4 million (U.S.) more profit per year than its competitor.
The A300 and A310 were at the origin of Airbus' highly successful jetliner product line, and they remain in service worldwide as workhorse passenger and cargo aircraft. To ensure operators continue to obtain the best from their A300s and A310s, Airbus has developed a long-term support programme that includes the ensured management of spare parts - along with upgrades and retrofits - through 2049, when many of the airliners will still be in use.
The two-member flight crew concept was introduced to the airline industry with the A300, and it has since become a standard worldwide. The cockpits incorporate six cathode ray tube (CRT) displays on the main panel - replacing traditional dial-type indicators with electronic instruments that continuously provide flight, navigation and systems-monitoring information in a clear, comprehensive manner. The six identical displays show information optimised for each flight phase, significantly reducing pilot workload. The CRTs are physically identical and are fully interchangeable.
The A300F4-600R is one of the world's best selling freighter aircraft. It has great interlining capabilities - the ideal regional aircraft that also serves as a perfect complement to long-haul freighters. In 2004, Airbus began deliveries of the new A300-600F General Freighter version, with features that include a cargo loading system capable of handling almost every type of container and pallet simultaneously, and a side door at the rear of the lower deck that is sized for loading large items of general freight.
The worldwide success enjoyed by the A300 is the result of many factors, including the innovative 222-inch Airbus fuselage cross-section - which gives passengers a more spacious, comfortable cabin on a genuine twin-aisle widebody jetliner. Every First and Business class passenger aboard the A300 has either a window or aisle seat, while the comfortable eight-abreast Economy class cabin offers more space than any competing aircraft - with no passenger further than one seat away from an aisle.
Airbus pioneered the use of advanced composite materials on the A300B in 1972, incorporating them in secondary structures such as tailfin leading edges. Composites subsequently were applied to primary structures, with an entirely composite vertical tail plane introduced on the A310-300.
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