History Podcasts

Airbus Introduces A310 - History

Airbus Introduces A310 - History


Airbus's newest aircraft the A-310 made its maiden flight on April 3rd 1982. The 310 was designed to compete with the Boeing 767.


Why Did Airbus Cancel The Production Of The A310?

The A310 was the smaller, longer-range successor to the original A300, which served to put Airbus on the map. Between the two models, they paved the way for Airbus to become a true competitor to Boeing. But after 15 years, Airbus ended production of the A310, turning to larger widebodies such as the A330 and A340 for its long-haul products. Was it too hasty in shelving this small, long-range widebody?

The A310 – the original midsize aircraft

The widebody A310 was built on the success of its forerunner, the A300. It had a lot to live up to the A300 was the first twin-engine widebody in the world and the first ETOPS-compliant aircraft too. It sold more than 800 units and was seen as a high-performance option for medium- to long-range routes.

However, for some airlines, the A300 was just a little too big. Some operators just didn’t have the traffic to justify the capacity, while others desired increased frequencies over capacity. And so, work began on its little brother, the A300B1. Capacity would be reduced from the 210 – 250 passengers down to 220 passengers or less. This would come with a range boost of almost 2,000km over the A300-600.

In a move that was to become typical of Airbus and its future products, the A300 and A310 introduced the concept of commonality. Pilots could easily cross qualify between the models, with just one day of training required. Maintenance and tooling was also easily shared, making it easy for airlines to run both models with limited additional expense.

Over the years, Airbus developed six variants of the A310. The first was the -200, a medium-range version, which was followed by the -300, a longer-range version, which soon became the standard. The shorter -100 version was never developed due to low demand. As well as these, it developed the -200C and -300C, convertible passenger/cargo aircraft, and the -200F/300F, full freighter versions. The military version A310 MRT/MRTT is an aftermarket conversion.

Over the 15 years it was in production, the A310 sold 225 units. But, in 1998, Airbus ended the production of the type. Why did it stop?

Ending production

In comparison to the way the A300 had sold, sales for the A310 were relatively low. From 1983 to 1993, around 20 aircraft a year were delivered. Most of those deliveries were fulfilling orders placed before the plane entered service. However, in 1994, the manufacturer had its first year with zero orders for the type.

From then on, interest was sluggish, and Airbus reduced its production rate, so it was delivering just two aircraft a year. Towards the end of the 90s, airlines were increasingly ordering the newer and more advanced A330 over its older sibling, and in 1998 the manufacturer finally pulled the plug.

The A300 and A310 were instrumental in Airbus establishing itself as a competitor to Boeing. Both jets paved the way for the European company’s development of more ambitious types, such as the A320 and A330/A340 families. But was it too hasty in shelving the A310?

Before its time?

Back in the 90s, when sales for the A310 were drying up, airlines were mainly operating on hub and spoke models. Emirates was beginning to scale up, and the idea of flying into a vast airport to connect on to where you wanted to go was considered to be the only way to fly.

Since then, things have changed. Airlines today are looking much more at point to point models, something which has sealed the fate of big aircraft like the A380 and Boeing 747. As such, what the world needs now is a small widebody with a long-range in the 200 – 250 passenger sphere. Doesn’t that sound a little familiar?

Eyes have been on Boeing for many years, waiting for an announcement of the New Midsize Airplane (NMA), affectionately dubbed the 797. While it now looks like the entire project will be shelved in favor of a new small airplane to replace the beleaguered MAX, Airbus has been sitting on a solution all along.

The A300 and A310 both tick many boxes of the NMA requirements. The capacity is right the range, particularly of the A310, is good. All they need to fix is the efficiency. With new ‘neo’ technology on board, the A310 could easily become the NMA that airlines want. However, there are currently no plans to restart production, or to neo-ize the original concept.

What do you think? Should Airbus bring the A310 back in a neo version? Let us know in the comments.


Contents

Background Edit

On 26 September 1967, the British, French, and West German governments signed a memorandum of understanding to commence the joint development of the 300-seat Airbus A300. [2] [3] [4] This collaborative effort resulted in the production of the consortium's first airliner, known as the Airbus A300. The A300 was a wide-body medium-to-long range passenger airliner it holds the distinction of being the first twin-engine wide-body aircraft in the world. [5] [6] [7] [8] The design was relatively revolutionary for its time, and featured a number of industry firsts, making the first use of composite materials on a commercial aircraft during 1977, the A300 became the first ETOPS-compliant aircraft, which was made possible due to its high performance and safety standards. [9] The A300 would be produced in a range of models, and sold relatively well to airlines across the world, eventually reaching a total of 816 delivered aircraft during its production life. [10]

During the development of the earlier A300, a range of different aircraft size and capacity were studied by the consortium the resulting Airbus A300B proposal was one of the smaller options. When the A300B1 prototypes emerged, a number of airlines issued requests for an aircraft with greater capacity, which resulted in the initial production A300B2 version. As the A300 entered service, it became increasingly apparent that there was also a sizeable market for a smaller aircraft some operators did not have enough traffic to justify the relatively large A300, while others wanted more frequency or lower aircraft-mile costs at the expense of higher seat-mile cost (specifically Swissair and Lufthansa). At the same time, there was great pressure for Airbus to validate itself beyond the design and manufacture of a single airliner. In response to these desires, Airbus explored the options for producing a smaller derivative of the A300B2. [11]

Jean Roeder, chief engineer of Deutsche Airbus, speaking of the A310. [7]

In order to minimise the associated research and development costs for the tentative project, Airbus chose to examine several early design studies performed during the A300 programme. The company ultimately chose to prioritise its focus on one option, which became known as the A300B10MC (standing for Minimum Change). As envisioned, the airliner's capacity was reduced to a maximum of 220 passengers, which was viewed at the time as being a desired capacity amongst many airlines. However, such a design would have resulted in a relatively small fuselage being mated to a comparatively large wing and oversized undercarriage such an arrangement would have, amongst other things, made the aircraft consume an unnecessarily larger amount of fuel as it carried heavier weight than what was otherwise required. [12]

Another problem for the programme was presented in the form of inflation, the rate of which in the United Kingdom (one of the early members of the Airbus consortium) was around 35 per cent during 1979–80. This factor was responsible for significantly raising the program's development costs and, as a knock-on effect, increase the per-unit cost of the resulting airliner. [12] During the development of the A300, British manufacturer Hawker Siddeley Aviation (HSA) had been appointed as the subcontractor to perform the manufacturing of the wing of the aircraft shortly afterwards, the British government chose to withdraw from the newly formed venture during 1969. During 1977, HSA subsequently merged with three other British aircraft companies, resulting in the formation of British Aerospace (BAe). By this point in time, the British government had publicly indicated its intentions to rejoin the Airbus programme. During May 1976, the French government entered into a series of discussions on cooperation, during which its representatives stated that the placing of an order by British Airways (BA) was a condition for the re-admission of the United Kingdom into Airbus Industrie as a full partner. [13]

However, both BA and Rolls-Royce had not relinquished their will to collaborate with the Americans in future aircraft endeavours and, in BA's case, procure American aircraft. During the late 1970s, BA sought to purchase two separate types of aircraft in development by American company Boeing, initially known as the 7N7 and 7X7, which would develop into the 757 and 767, the latter of which being an intended rival to the upcoming A310, as well as the existing Boeing 747. Independent of the British government, BAe commenced its own dialogue between itself and American aircraft manufacturers Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, for the purpose of assessing if BAe could participate any of their future programmes, although the company's chairman, Lord Beswick, publicly stated that the overall aim of the firm was to pursue collaboration in Europe. [13] At the 1978 Farnborough Air Show, Eric Varley, the British Secretary of State for Industry, announced that BAe was to rejoin Airbus Industrie and participate as a full partner from 1 January 1979 onwards. Under the negotiated arrangement, BAe would be allocated a 20 per cent shareholding in Airbus Industrie, and would perform "a full part in the development and manufacturing of the A310". [14]

Design effort Edit

From late 1977, prior to the Varley announcement, BAe had already commenced work on the design of the new wing at its facility in Hatfield. However, due to negotiations with Britain on its return to the Airbus consortium being protracted, alternative options were explored, including potentially manufacturing the wing elsewhere. [7] At the same time as the British efforts, French aerospace firm Aérospatiale, German aircraft manufacturer Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB), and Dutch-German joint venture company VFW-Fokker were also conducting their individual studies into possible options for the wing of the prospective airliner. [ citation needed ]

At the April 1978 Hanover Air Show, Airbus exhibited a model of the proposed A310. Its wing area, at 219.25 m 2 (2,360.0 sq ft) was slightly larger than that studied, at 209 m 2 (2,250 sq ft) its passenger cabin was twelve frames shorter than the A300, [b] accommodating typical passenger loads of 195 in two-class, or 245 in economy. [14] However, during the next twelve months, almost every aspect was further refined. On 9 June 1978, Swissair and Lufthansa developed a joint specification for the aircraft, and within a month, announced that they would place the launch orders. On 15 March, Swissair became the first airline to place a firm order for the type, announcing that it would acquire ten aircraft, with a further ten under option, to replace its McDonnell Douglas DC-9s on its major intra-European routes. Lufthansa was quick to place a $240 million ten-aircraft order additional orders from French operator Air France and Spanish airline Iberia shortly followed. [14]

As a consequence of increasingly strong interest in the tentative airliner, coupled with the recovery of the industry during the late 1970s, contributed to Airbus deciding to launch the A300B10, which was now known as the A310, into production on 7 July 1978. [ citation needed ] During the latter half of 1978, an order for ten A300s was placed by independent British airline Laker Airways, satisfying Airbus's demand for the placing of a British order for their aircraft. [7] On 1 April 1979, Lufthansa decided to raise its commitment for the type to twenty-five aircraft, along with twenty-five options. Two days later, Dutch operator KLM signed its order for ten aircraft and ten options at £238 million. [14] [15] [16] On 6 July 1979, Air France announced that it had raised its order from four to thirty-five airliners. [ citation needed ] Other airlines announcing orders for the A310 during 1979 included Martinair, Sabena, and Air Afrique. [15] [16]

Initially, a pair of distinct versions of the A310 had been planned by Airbus the regional A310-100, and the transcontinental A310-200. The A310-100 featured a range of 2,000 nmi (3,700 km 2,300 mi) with 200 passengers, whilst the A310-200 possessed a higher MTOW and centre section fuel, being able to carry the same load a further 1,000 nmi (1,900 km 1,200 mi). [17] Basic engines offered for the type included the General Electric CF6-45B2 and Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7R4. At one point, British engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce was openly considering offering an engine for the A310, the Rolls-Royce RB.207, however, it ultimately chose to discard such efforts in favour of a smaller three-spool design, the RB.211.

Production Edit

The range of the A310 exceeds that of the A300 series, with the exception of the A300-600R, which in turn surpasses that of the A310-200. The greater range of the A310 contributed to the airliner being used extensively by operators on transatlantic routes. The A300 and A310 introduced the concept of commonality: A300-600 and A310 pilots can cross-qualify for the other aircraft with one day of training. [ citation needed ]

Sales of the A310 continued through the early 1980s. On 3 April 1982, the prototype A310-200 airliner conducted its maiden flight by this point, the type had accumulated a combined orders and options for 181 aircraft, which had been placed by fifteen airlines worldwide, which had been a relatively superior start than that of the original A300. Over time, it had become clear that the longer-range series −200 aircraft was the more popular of the two models on offer. During 1979, in response to the lack of demand for the A310-100, Airbus decided to stop offering the lower gross weight model which had been originally proposed for Lufthansa as a consequence, none of this variant were ultimately manufactured. [15]

During the early 1990s, demand for the aircraft began to slacken there were no new A310 passenger orders placed during the late 1990s, in part due to the introduction of the newer and more advanced Airbus A330 during this time. As a result, during June 1998, the last delivery of the A310 was completed. The A310, along with its A300 stablemate, officially ceased production during July 2007, though an order from Iraqi Airways for five A310s had remained on the books until July 2008. The remaining freighter sales were to be instead fulfilled by the new A330-200F derivative. [18]

The A310 has been commonly marketed as an introduction to wide-body operations for airlines based in developing countries. The airliner was replaced in Airbus' range by the highly successful A330-200, which shares its fuselage cross-section. Between 1983, and the last aircraft produced in 1998, 255 A310s were delivered. [1] The A300 and A310 established Airbus as a competitor to Boeing, and allowed it to go ahead with the more ambitious A320, and A330 / A340 families. [ citation needed ]

As of July 2017 [update] , thirty-seven A310s remain in commercial service major operators are Air Transat and Mahan Air with nine aircraft each Fedex Express (six), and seven airlines operating thirteen aircraft between them. [19]

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) currently operates a fleet of five Airbus CC-150 Polaris, civilian Airbus A310-300s, originally owned by Wardair, and subsequently Canadian Airlines International, after the airlines merged. The aircraft were then sold to the Canadian government, and have been converted for use as the primary long-distance transport aircraft as part of the Royal Canadian Air Force's fleet of Royal Canadian Air Force VIP aircraft.

The Airbus A310 was a medium- to long-range twin-engined wide-body jet airliner. Initially a derivative of the A300, the aircraft had originally been designated the A300B10. It was essentially a shortened variant of the earlier aircraft however, there were considerable differences between the two aircraft. [20] Specifically, the fuselage possessed the same cross-section, but being shorter than the A300, it provided capacity for a typical maximum of 200 passengers. The rear fuselage was heavily re-designed, featuring altered tapering, while involved a move aft of the rear bulkhead to create additional capacity this same design change was later transferred back to later variants of the A300, such as the A300-600 and A330/A340 fuselages. [20] The A310 also had a different emergency exit configuration, consisting of four main doors (two at the front and two at the rear of the aircraft), and two smaller doors over the wings. [ citation needed ]

The wing of the A310 was redesigned, possessing a reduced span and wing area, and incorporating simpler single-slotted Fowler flaps designed by British Aerospace shortly following its decision to join the Airbus consortium. [20] Other changes to the wing included the elimination of the outer ailerons, which were occasionally referred to by the manufacturer as being "low speed ailerons", and the addition of electrically actuated spoilers. The wing also featured common pylons, which were able to support all types of engines that were offered to customers to power the airliner. [20] From 1985 onwards, later-built production A310s were equipped with wingtip fences for the purpose of reducing lift-induced drag. A limited number of alternations were also performed to the airliner's tail unit, such as the adoption of smaller horizontal tail surfaces. [20]

The A310 was furnished with a two-crew glass cockpit configuration as standard, removing the requirement for a flight engineer Airbus referred to this concept as the Forward-Facing Crew Cockpit. [7] The company had developed the cockpit to significantly enhance the aircraft's man-machine interface, thereby improving operational safety. It was outfitted with an array of six computer-based cathode ray tube (CRT) displays to provide the flight crew with centralised navigational, warning, monitoring, and general flight information, in place of the more traditional analogue instrumentation and dials, which were used in conjunction with a range of modern electronic systems. [7] The same flight deck had been incorporated into the A300-600, a move which increased commonality between the two types, and enabled a dual type rating to be achieved, this same approach was later used on many future Airbus aircraft. In addition to the two flying crew, provisions for third and fourth crew seats were present within the flight deck. [7]

The A310 was initially launched with a choice of three engines: the General Electric CF6-80A (originally the CF6-45B2), the Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7R4D1, and the Rolls-Royce RB211-524B4. [ citation needed ] The specific Rolls-Royce RB211-524B4 engine intended for this initial application was not developed. General Electric powered A310-200s were originally offered with the CF6-80A3 (A310-203), but with the introduction of the A310-300, the CF6-80C2 became available for both variants. [ citation needed ] The initial offering was for the 53,000 lbf (240 kN) CF6-80C2A2 (A310-204/A310-304) engine, and later on, the higher thrust 59,000 lbf (260 kN) 80C2A8 (A310-308). Similarly Pratt & Whitney powered A310s were first offered with versions of the JT9D engines (both −22s and −300s), but when the PW4000 powered A310 became available in 1987, the aircraft was offered with the 52,000 lbf (230 kN) PW4152 (A310-324). From April 1992 the higher thrust PW4156A 56,000 lbf (250 kN) was offered for the A310 (A310-325), with the PW4158A 58,000 lbf (260 kN) /-326 becoming available from 1996. [ citation needed ]

The A310 was equipped with a modified undercarriage, derived from the A300 the landing gear were outfitted with carbon brakes, which were fitted as standard. [20] The structure of the airliner featured a high level of composite materials throughout both primary and secondary structures, increased beyond that of the earlier A300. The A310 is outfitted with integrated drive electrical generators along with auxiliary power unit, which were improved versions of those used on the A300. [20]


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The Airbus A-310

Seeking to complement its original, although larger-capacity, A-300 on thinner sectors with a low-cost, minimally redesigned counterpart and thus expand its product range, Airbus Industrie explored a shorter-fuselage version designated "A-310."

A consortium of European aircraft manufacturers headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus Industrie itself had arisen because the design and marketing of an advanced, widebody airliner had exceeded the financial strength of any single, Europe-based company, the principle ones of which had included de Havilland with the DH.106 Comet, Vickers with the VC-10, Hawker Siddeley with the HS.121 Trident, and the British Aircraft Corporation with the BAC-111 in the United Kingdom, and Sud-Aviation with the SE.210 Caravelle and Dassault-Breguet with the Mercure 100 in France.

The A-300, its first joint design, not only signaled its launch as an aircraft manufacturer, but that of the aircraft itself and the concept it represented-a large-capacity, widebody, twin-engined "airbus." Intended to compete with Boeing, and particularly with its still-envisioned 767, it provided a non-US alternative to continental carriers and a foundation on which a European commercial product range could be built, offering the first serious challenge to both Boeing and McDonnell-Douglas.

Intended for short- to medium-range, relatively high-capacity deployment, the aircraft featured a widebody fuselage mated to two high bypass ratio turbofans whose thrust capability and reliability, coupled with a high-lift wing, had served as the key elements of its design.

Obviating the need for a third powerplant characteristic of the 727, the DC-10, and the L-1011, the twin-engine configuration yielded numerous economic benefits, including the reduction of structural and gross weights, the reduction of maintenance costs, the elimination of the additionally required fuel lines, the introduction of structural simplicity, and the reduction of seat-mile costs.

Aerodynamically, the twin-engine design also resulted in several advantages. The wings, mounted further forward than feasible by a tri-engine configuration, increased the moment-arm between the pylon-slung turbofans/center-of-gravity and its tail, thus requiring smaller horizontal and vertical stabilizers to maintain longitudinal and yaw-axis control and indirectly reducing structural weight and drag, yet maintaining certifiable control during single-engine loss, asymmetrical thrust conditions.

Designed by the Hawker Siddeley team in Hatfield, the 28-degree sweptback, supercritical wing, built up of a forward and rear full and mid half-spar, produced the greater portion of its lift over its aft portion, delaying shock wave formation and reducing drag.

Low-speed lift was augmented by full-span, engine pylon-uninterrupted leading edge slats, which increased the aircraft's take off weight capability by some 2,000 pounds, and tabbed, trailing edge Fowler flaps, which extended to 70 percent of their travel before rotating into camber-increasing profiles, resulting in a 25-percent larger chord.

Part of the reason for engine reliability had been the auxiliary power unit's integration into the main electric, air conditioning, and starting systems, providing immediate back-up in the event of engine failure at altitudes as high as 30,000 feet.

The A-300's widebody fuselage provided the same degree of twin-aisle comfort and loading capability of standard LD3 baggage and cargo containers as featured by the quad-engined 747 and the tri-engined DC-10 and L-1011.

Seeking to build upon these design strengths, yet decrease passenger capacity with a foreshortened fuselage and expand its market application, Airbus Industrie conceptionally studied and proposed nine potential aircraft varying in capacity, range, and powerplant number and designated A-300B1 to -B9 based upon the initial A-300 platform.

It was the tenth, however-designated A-300B10-which most optimally catered to carriers' needs for a 200-passenger airliner for segments with insufficient demand to support its larger counterpart and for those which merited additional frequencies, such as during off-peak times. Other than the two original prototype A-300B1s and the three-frame longer A-300B2, the aircraft had only offered a single basic fuselage length, whose capacity partially accounted for initially sluggish sales.

Although a low-cost A-300B10MC "Minimal Change" entailed mating a shorter fuselage with the existing wing, powerplants, and tailplane would have provided few engineering obstacles, it would have resulted in an aircraft proportionally too small and heavy for the A-300's original surfaces. Despite a lower structural weight, it would have offered insufficient internal volume for revenue-generating passenger, cargo, and mail payload to eclipse its direct operating costs (DOC).

Balancing both the superior performance and the minimized development cost sides of the program's equation, Airbus Industrie considered two possible approaches:

1). The A-300B10X, which employed a new wing designed by the since-amalgamated British Aerospace in Hatfield with smaller leading and trailing edge, high-lift devices.

2). The A-300B10Y, which utilized the existing A-300 wing box, with some modifications.

Lufthansa, the envisioned launch customer, strongly advocated the former approach, because of the reduced costs associated with a redesigned, more advanced airfoil, and, together with Swissair, which equally contemplated an order for the type, detailed performance specifications. Placing deposits for 16 A-300B10s, which were concurrently redesignated "A-310s," in July of 1978, both airlines expected a final configuration by the following March.

The aircraft, which sported a 12-frame shorter fuselage for 767-like, 245-passenger accommodation, first appeared at the Hanover Air Show in model form.

Its wing, retaining the 28-degree sweepback of the A-300's, featured a shorter span and a consequent 16-percent reduced area, eliminating its center, half-spar and therefore offering equal, front and rear spar load distribution. The spars themselves, with 50 percent greater depth, were stronger, yet decreased structural weight by more than five tons. Its revised shape, requiring a new center section, introduced a double-curved profile, its metal, bent both span- and chord-wise, requiring shot-peening manufacturing techniques to form.

The increased-chord and -radius leading edge slats, necessitating a new cut-out over the engine pylon, improved take off performance, while the former, inner-tabbed, trailing edge Fowler flap panels were integrated into a single-slotted one with increased rearward movement. The two outer panels, also combined into a single panel, decreased cruise drag.

Lateral control, no longer necessitating the A-300's outboard ailerons, was maintained by the inboard ailerons operating in conjunction with the spoilers.

The tailplane, a scaled-down version of the A-300's, featured reduced separation between the upper surface of its elevator and the horizontal stabilizer, in order to decrease drag, and a redesigned tailcone permitted optimized internal cabin volume.

Powerplant choices included the 48,000 thrust-pound General Electric CF6-80A1 and the equally powered Pratt and Whitney JT9D-7R4D1, while the Rolls Royce RB.211-524D was optionally available, although no carrier ever specified it.

Both potential launch customers, round whose specifications the foreshortened version took shape, placed orders, Swissair ordering ten Pratt and Whitney-powered aircraft on March 15, 1979, Lufthansa placing 25 firm and 25 optioned orders for the General Electric-powered variant on April 1, and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines mimicking this order with ten firm and ten options two days later, also for the General Electric version, thus signaling the program's official launch.

Three basic versions, varying according to range, were then envisioned: the short-range, 2,000-mile A-310-100 the medium-range, 3,000-mile A-310-200 and the long-range, 3,500-mile A-310-300.

Final assembly the first two Pratt and Whitney-powered A-310-200s, with construction numbers (c/n) 162 and 163, commenced in the Aerospatiale factory in Toulouse during the winter of 1981 to 1982, continuing, not reinitiating, the A-300 production line numbering sequence. Major sectors, components, parts, and powerplants were fabricated by eight basic aerospace companies: Deutsche Airbus (major fuselage portions, the vertical fin, and the rudder), Aerospatiale (the front fuselage, the cockpit, the lower center fuselage, and the engine pylons), British Aerospace (the wings), CASA (doors and the horizontal tail), Fokker (the wing moving surfaces), Belairbus (also the wing moving surfaces), General Electric (the engines), and Pratt and Whitney (also the engines). Fokker and Belairbus were Airbus Industrie associate members.

Transfer to the final assembly site was facilitated by a fleet of four, 4,912-shaft horsepower Allison 501-D22C turboprop-powered Aero Spacelines Super Guppys, which had been based upon the original, quad piston-engined B-377 Stratocruiser airliners, requiring eight flights collectively totaling 45 airborne hours and covering some 8,000 miles for A-310 completion. The transports were re-dubbed "Airbus Skylinks."

A-310 customer furnishing, including thermal and noise insulation wall, floor, and door cladding ceiling, overhead storage compartment, and bulkhead installations and galley, lavatory, and seat addition, according to airline specification of class divisions, densities, and fabrics, colors, and motifs, occurred in Hamburg Finkenwerder, to where all aircraft were flown from Toulouse.

The first A-310, registered F-WZLH and wearing Lufthansa livery on its left side and Swissair livery on its right, was rolled out on February 16, 1982. Powered by Pratt and Whitney turbofans, it only differed from production aircraft in its internal test equipment and retention of the A-300's dual, low- and high-speed aileron configuration.

Superficially resembling a smaller A-300, however, it incorporated several design modifications.

The 13-frame-shorter fuselage, rendering an overall aircraft length of 153.1 feet, incorporated a redesigned tail and a relocated aft pressure bulkhead, resulting in a cabin only 11 frames shorter, and access was provided by four main passenger/galley servicing doors and two oversize type 1 emergency exits. These measured four feet, 6 3/4 inches high by two feet, 2 1/2 inches wide.

The A-310's wing box, a two-spar, multi-rib metal structure with upper and lower load-carrying skins, introduced new-purity aluminum alloys in its upper layer and stringers, which resulted in a 660-pound weight reduction, but otherwise retained the larger A-300's ribs and spacings. Almost blended with the fuselage's lower curve at its underside root, the airfoil offered a greater thickness-chord ratio, of 11.8, as opposed to its predecessor's 10.5, reducing the amount of wing-to-body interference ordinarily encountered at high Mach numbers, yet it afforded sufficient depth at the root itself to carry the required loads at the lowest possible structural weight and simultaneously provided the greatest amount of integral fuel tankage.

Low-speed lift was attained by means of the three leading edge slat panels and a single Krueger flap located between the inner-most slat and the root, and inboard, vaned, trailing edge Fowler flaps and a single outboard Fowler flap panel.

Although the first two A-310s retained the A-300's outboard, low-speed ailerons, they quickly demonstrated their redundancy, roll control maintained by means of all-speed, trailing edge ailerons augmented by three electrically-activated, outer spoilers, which extended on the ground-angled wing. The four inner spoilers served as airbrakes, while all seven, per wing, extended after touchdown to serve as lift dumpers.

Engine bleed air or that from the auxiliary power unit (APU) provided icing protection.

Engine pylons were positioned further inboard then those of the comparable A-300, and the nacelles protruded further forward.

With a 144-foot span, the wings covered a 2,357.3-square-foot area and had an 8.8 aspect ratio.

Although the A-310 retained the A-300's conventional tail, it featured a horizontal stabilizer span reduction, from 55.7 to 53.4 feet, with a corresponding decease from 748.1 to 688.89 square feet, while its vertical fin rendered an overall aircraft height of 51.10 feet.

Power was provided by two 48,000 thrust-pound Pratt and Whitney JT9D-7R4D1 or two 48,000 thrust-pound General Electric CF6-80A1 high bypass ratio turbofans, either of which was supportable by the existing pylons, and usable fuel totaled 14,509 US gallons.

The hydraulically actuated tricycle undercarriage was comprised of a twin-wheeled, forward-retracting, steerable nose wheel, and two, dual tandem-mounted, laterally-retracting, anti-skid, Messier-Bugatti main units. Their carbon brakes resulted in a 1,200-pound weight reduction.

The smaller, lighter, and quieter Garrett GTCP 331-250 auxiliary power unit offered lower fuel consumption than that employed by the A-300, and the aircraft featured three independent, 3,000 pound-per-square-inch hydraulic systems.

The A-310's cockpit, based upon its predecessor's, incorporated the latest avionics technology and electronic displays, and traced its origin to the October 6, 1981 first forward-facing cockpit crew (FFCC) A-300 flight, which deleted the third, or flight engineer, position, resulting in certification to this standard after a three-month, 150-hour flight text program. That aircraft thus became the first widebodied airliner to be operated by a two-person cockpit crew.

The most visually-apparent flight deck advancement, over and above the number of required crew members, had been the replacement of many traditional analog dials and instruments with six, 27-square-millimeter, interchangeable cathode ray tube (CRT) display screens to reduce both physical and mental crew workload, subdivided into an Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS) and an Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitor (ECAM), which either displayed information which was necessary or which was crew-requested, but otherwise employed the dark-screen philosophy. Malfunction severity was indicated by color-white indicating that something had been turned off, yellow indicating potentially required action, and red signifying immediately-needed action, coupled with an audible warning.

Of the six display screens, the Primary Flight Display (PFD), which was duplicated for both the captain and the first officer, and the Navigation Display (ND), which was equally duplicated, belonged to the Electronic Flight Instrument System, while the Warning Display (WD) and the Systems Display (SD) belonged to the Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitor.

The Primary Flight Display, viewable in several modes, offered, for example, an electronic image of an artificial horizon, on the left of which was a linear scale indicating critical speeds, such as stick shaker, minimum, minimum flap retraction, and maneuver, while on the right of it were altitude parameters.

The Navigation Display screen, below that of the Primary Flight Display, also featured several modes. Its map mode, for instance, enabled several parts and scales of a compass rose to be displayed, such as its upper arc subdivided into degrees, with indications of course track deviations, wind, tuned-in VOR/DME, weather radar, the selected heading, the true and indicated airspeeds, the course and remaining distance to waypoints, primary and secondary flight plans, top-of-descent, and vertical deviations.

The autopilot possessed full control for Category 2 automatic approaches, including single-engine overshoots, with optional Category 3 autoland capability.

The collective Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitor, whose two display screens were located on the lower left and right sides of the center panel, continually screened more than 500 pieces of information, indicating or alerting of anomalies, with diagrams and schematics only appearing during flight phase-relevant intervals, coupled with any necessary and remedial actions. The Systems Display, located on the right, could feature any cockpit crew member-selected schematic at any time, such as hydraulics, aileron position, and flaps.

Two keyboards on the center pedestal interfaced the flight management system (FMS).

The flight control system, operating off of two Arinc 701-standard computers and essentially serving as autopilots, drove the flight director and speed reference system, and was operable in numerous modes, inclusive of auto take off, auto go-around, vertical speed select and hold, altitude capture and hold, heading select, flight level change, hold, heading hold, pitch, roll/attitude hold, and VOR select and homing.

The thrust control system, operating off of an Arinc 703-standard computer, provided continuous computation and command of the optimum N1 and/or engine pressure ratio (EPR) limits, the autothrottle functions, the autothrottle command for windshear protection, and the autothrottle command for speed and angle-of-attack protection.

Unlike earlier airliners, the A-310 replaced the older-technology pilot command and input transmission by means of mechanical, cable linkages with electronic bit or byte signaling.

Retaining the A-300's fuselage cross-section, the A-310 featured a 109.1-foot-long, 17.4-foot-wide, and seven-foot, 7 3/4-inch high cabin, resulting in a 7,416-cubic-foot internal volume, whose inherent flexibility facilitated six-, seven-, eight-, and nine-abreast seating for first, business, premium economy, standard economy, and high-density/charter configurations and densities, all according to customer specification. Typical dual-class arrangements included 20 six-abreast, two-two-two, first class seats at a 40-inch pitch and 200 eight-abreast, two-four-two, coach seats at a 32-inch pitch, or 29 first class and 212 economy class passengers at, respectively, six-abreast/40-inch and eight-abreast/32-inch densities. Two hundred forty-seven single-class passengers could be accommodated at a 31- to 32-inch pitch, while the aircraft's 280-passenger, exit-limited maximum, entailed a nine-abreast, 30-inch pitch arrangement.

Standard configurations included two galleys and one lavatory forward and two galleys and four lavatories aft, with encloseable, handrail-equipped overhead storage compartments installed over the side and center seat banks.

The forward, lower-deck hold, measuring 25 feet, 1/2 inch in length, accepted three pallets or eight LD3 containers, while the aft hold, running 16 feet, 6 1/4 inch in length, accepted six LD3 containers. The collective 3,605 cubic feet of lower-deck volume resulted from the 1,776 cubic feet in the forward compartment, the 1,218 in the aft compartment, and the 611 in the bulk compartment, which only accepted loose, or non-unit load device (ULD), load.

Powered by two General Electric CF6-80C2A2 engines and configured for 220 passengers, the A-310-200 had a 72,439-pound maximum payload, a 313,050-pound maximum take off weight, and a 271,150-pound maximum landing weight. Range, with international reserves for a 200-nautical mile diversion, was 4,200 miles.

The A-310-200 prototype, flown by Senior Test Pilot Bernard Ziegler and Pierre Baud, took to the skies for the first time on April 3, 1982 powered by Pratt and Whitney JT9D turbofans, and completed a very successful three-hour, 15-minute sortie, during which time it attained a Mach 0.77 airspeed and a 31,000-foot altitude. After 11 weeks, 210 airborne hours had been logged.

The second prototype, registered F-WZLI and also powered by Pratt and Whitney engines, first flew on May 3, completing a four-hour, 45-minute flight, and the third, powered by the General Electric CF6 turbofans for the first time, shortly followed, the five aircraft demonstrating that the A-300-morphed design had far more capability than originally calculated. Drag measures were so low, in fact, that the cruise Mach number was increased from the initially calculated 0.78 to a new 0.805, while the buffet boundary was ten-percent greater, permitting a 2,000-foot-higher flight level for any gross weight to be attained, or a 24,250-pound greater payload to be carried. Long-range fuel consumption was four percent lower.

The Airbus A-310 received its French and German type certification on March 11, 1983 for both the Pratt and Whitney- and General Electric-powered aircraft and Category 2 approaches, and a dual-delivery ceremony, to Lufthansa German Airlines and Swissair, occurred on March 29 in Toulouse. It became the European manufacturer's second aircraft after that of the original A-300.

Lufthansa, which had operated 11 A-300B2s and -B4s and had inaugurated the larger type into service seven years earlier, on April 1, 1976, from Frankfurt to London, followed suit with the A-310-200 on April 12, 1983, from Frankfurt to Stuttgart, before being deploying the type to London later that day. It replaced its early A-300B2s.

Swissair, which, like Lufthansa, had been instrumental in its ultimate design, inaugurated the A-310 into service nine days later, on April 21. Of its initial four, three were based in Zurich and one was based in Geneva, and all were used on high-density, European and Middle Eastern sectors, many of which had previously been served by DC-9s.

A convertible variant, featuring a forward, left, upward-opening main deck cargo door and loading system, was designated A-310-200C, the first of which was delivered to Martinair Holland on November 29, 1984.

By March 31, 1985, 56 A-310s operated by 13 carriers had flown 103,400 revenue hours during 60,000 flights which had averaged one-hour, 43 minutes in duration.

Demand for a longer-range version precluded A-310-100 production, but resulted in the second, and only other, major version, the A-310-300.

Launched in March of 1983, it introduced several range-extending design features.

Wingtip fences, vertically spanning 55 inches and featuring a rear navigation light fairing, extended above and below the tip, extracting energy from unharnassed vortices created by upper and lower airfoil pressure differential intermixing, and reduced fuel burn by 1.5 percent. The device was first flight-tested on August 1, 1984.

Increased range capability, to a far greater extent, resulted from modifying the horizontal stabilizer into an integral trim fuel tank. Connected to the main wing tanks by double-walled pipes and electrically driven pumps, the new tank was contained in the structurally strengthened and sealed horizontal stabilizer wing box, storing five tons of fuel and shifting the center-of-gravity over 12- to 16-percent of the aerodynamic chord. The modification, requiring minimal structural change to an aerodynamic surface beyond the pressurized fuselage, offered numerous advantages over the increase in range, including Concorde-reminiscent, in-flight fuel transferability to effectuate optimum trims, and an aft center-of-gravity to reduce wing loading, drag, and resultant fuel burn. A trim tank computer controlled and monitored center-of-gravity settings, and the amount of needed fuel could be manually selected during the on-ground refueling process.

Structure weight had been decreased by use of a carbon-fiber vertical fin, resulting in a 310-pound reduction. The A-310 had been the first commercial airliner to employ such a structure.

Total fuel capacity, including that of the trim tank, equaled 16,133 US gallons, while up to two supplementary tanks could be installed in the forward portion of the aft hold, increasing capacity by another 1,902 US gallons.

In order to permit extended-range twin operations (ETOPS), a certification later redesignated extended-range operations (EROPS), the aircraft was fitted with a hydraulically-driven generator, increased lower-deck fire protection, and the capability of in-flight APU starts at minimum cruising altitudes.

Powered by General Electric CF6-80C2A8 turbofans and carrying 220 dual-class passengers, the A-310-300 had a 71,403-pound payload capability and a 330,675-pound maximum take off weight, able to fly 4,948-mile nonstop sectors.

First flying on July 8, 1985, the type was certified with Pratt and Whitney JT9D-7R4E engines six months later, on December 5, while certification with the General Electric CF6-80C2 powerplant followed in April of 1986.

Four of Swissair's ten A-310s, which were operated on its Middle Eastern and West African routes, were -300 series.

The A-310-300 was the first western airliner to attain Russian State Aviation Register type certification, in October of 1991.

Although it had initially been intended as a smaller-capacity, medium-range A-300 complement, the design features incorporated both conceptually and progressively resulted in a very capable twin-engine, twin cockpit crew, widebody, intercontinental airliner which, in its two basic forms, served multiple missions: an earlier-generation Boeing 707 and McDonnell-Douglas DC-8 replacement a Boeing 727 replacement on maturing, medium-range routes a DC-10 and L-1011 TriStar replacement on long, thin sectors an A-300 replacement on lower-density segments an A-300 complement during off-peak times and a European competitor to the similarly-configured Boeing 767, enabling Airbus Industrie to describe the type as follows: "The A-310's optimized range of up to 5,000 nautical miles (9,600 km) is one of the parameters that has made it the ideal 'first widebody' aircraft for airlines growing to this size of operation."

Singapore Airlines had been the first to deploy the A-310-200 on long-range overwater routes in June of 1985, covering the 3,250-mile sector between Singapore and Mauritius, although the aircraft had not been EROPS-equipped, that distinction reserved for Pan Am, which had connected the 3,300 miles over the North Atlantic from New York/JFK to Hamburg the following April.

During that year, the A-310-200 became available with wingtip fences, first deliveries of which were made to Thai Airways International, and the A-310-300 was progressively certified with uprated engines and increased ranges, a 346,125-pound gross weight producing a 5,466-mile range capability and a 361,560-pound gross weight producing a 5,926-mile range, all with General Electric engines. Pratt and Whitney turbofan-powered aircraft offered even greater ranges.

The first EROPS-equipped A-310-300 with JT9D-7R4E engines, was delivered to Balair on March 21, 1986, and its range capability, with 242 single-class passengers and a 337,300-pound gross weight, exceeded 4,500 miles.

By the end of that month, the A-310 fleet had collectively logged more than 250,000 hours.

A post-production cargo conversion of the A-310-200, designated A-310-P2F and performed by EADS EFW in Dresden, Germany, entailed the installation of a forward, left, upward-opening door, which facilitated loading of 11 96 x 125-inch or 16 88 x 125-inch main deck pallets, while three of the former and six LD3 containers could be accommodated on the lower deck. With an 89,508-pound payload and a 313,055-pound maximum take off weight, the freighter offered 10,665 cubic feet of internal volume.

The last of the 255 A-310s produced, an A-310-300 registered UK-31003, first flew on April 6, 1998 and was delivered to Uzbekistan Airways two months later, on June 15. Although Airbus Industrie had contemplated offering a shorter-fuselage version of the A-330, the A-330-500, as a potential A-310 replacement, its range and capacity had proved too high to assume its mission profiles. Resultantly, no definitive design ever succeeded it.


Airbus Introduces A310 - History

Takeoff Surveillance & Monitoring Functions

Airbus has continuously improved takeoff safety since the “TO CONFIG TEST” pushbutton was first introduced on A300 and A310 aircraft, and with the development of the Takeoff Surveillance (TOS1 & TOS2) and Takeoff Monitoring (TOM) functions.

The TOS2 package that was initially developed for the A350 is now available for A320 family and A330 aircraft. This is an opportunity to review the checks that are performed by each function, from cockpit preparation to takeoff.

This article supersedes “The Takeoff Securing function” article published in the Safety first issue #8 (July 2009).

There have been several events during takeoff over this last decade. In certain cases, the aircraft took off with incorrect trim or flaps settings, which increases the risk of runway overrun or tail strike event. Erroneous parameters were sometimes used for the performance calculation, leading to incorrect takeoff speeds or Flex thrust computation. On other occasions takeoff data was not updated in the FMS following a late runway change, leading to takeoff without the correct performance data in the FMS. A number of aircraft started takeoff from a taxiway intersection when the computed performance was for the entire length of runway. There were also takeoffs starting on a taxiway or from the opposite QFU. Finally, few cases of residual braking leading to an abnormal aircraft acceleration were reported during takeoff roll.

Most of these events can be avoided by complying with the FCOM Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). Indeed, several crosschecks enable the flight crew to identify discrepancies. These examples however show that errors can still be made, which typically occur when there are stressful situations, high crew workload, last minute changes or demanding ATC requests.

Airbus developed Takeoff Surveillance and Monitoring functions to provide additional safety-nets to support the flight crew during takeoff preparation and takeoff roll.

Evolution of the Takeoff Surveillance & Monitoring functions on Airbus aircraft

The « TO CONFIG TEST » pushbutton was first introduced on A300/A310 aircraft. When pressed, it checks the correct aircraft configuration for takeoff. If the aircraft configuration is not correct, the CONFIG light comes on the Master Warning Panel (A300) or an ECAM alert triggers (A300-600/A310).

Airbus introduced the first step of the Takeoff Surveillance functions (TOS1) on A320 family aircraft in 2009 and then on A330/A340 aircraft in 2013. TOS1 improves the checks performed on flaps and trim settings and adds a check of the performance parameters entered in the FMS (aircraft weight and takeoff speeds).

The second step of the Takeoff Surveillance functions (TOS2) was introduced on A350 aircraft in 2018 and is now available on A320 family and A330 aircraft. TOS2 checks that the aircraft is positioned on the intended runway and that the expected takeoff performance – based on data entered in the FMS by the crew – is compatible with the runway distance available.

The Takeoff Monitoring function (TOM) was first developed on A380 in 2018 and is now also available on A350. TOM monitors the acceleration of the aircraft during the takeoff phase and warns the flight crew if a lower-than-expected acceleration is detected.


The evolution of aviation in our beloved Latin America

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Airline Leaders Forum in Buenos Aires… and I got big surprise. ALTA, the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association, presented me with the Alas de América award at a lovely gala dinner. I was truly honored to receive this incredible industry recognition, but even more importantly I accepted this award on behalf of those who have been part of our great team in Latin America over the years.

This award represents more than selling nearly 2,000 airplanes —still well below the 16,000 my boss John Leahy has sold! It is also a reflection of the evolution of aviation in our beloved Latin America.

When I started at Airbus in 1983 (after a brief stint at Boeing, believe it or not) the company looked nothing like it does today. Neither did the industry. At Airbus, we were just over 600 people, compared to 55,000 today. It was the year of the A310! Airbus had sold slightly over 300 aircraft and there were only seven in service Airbus aircraft throughout Latin America, operated by Cruzeiro do Sul and VASP airlines.

While we were a very small sales team of five in Latin American and were as enthusiastic and dynamic as we are today. In those days, many of the small airlines we visited had no idea what Airbus was. Thinking that Airbus would grow to dominate the Latin American market was simply unimaginable… a utopia!

Looking back through the aviation history of our beloved region.

  • In the 1980s, many Latin American airlines were government owned or controlled. Fleets were small and aircraft were old and foreign carriers dominated the market. But the passenger market would start to show signs of change. Airlines were beginning to mature and Airbus was already well placed to embrace the opportunities of this emerging market.
  • In the 1990s, airline privatization spread throughout the region and carriers began to gain control of their destiny. At this time, Airbus market shared didn’t reach 5 percent in Latin America.
  • But in March 1998, things changed. After several months of negotiation and fierce competition, during the Le Bourget airshow when Airbus developed a game changing idea that allowed a purchase agreement between TAM, LAN and TACA to renew their fleet: 90 A320 Family aircraft and options for 90 more. This historic order for Airbus was a breakthrough as it was the first time in the region, and probably in the world, when more than one airline came together to buy airplanes. These airlines were private, profitable and controlled by its founding families and, therefore, they were ready to take decisions quickly. This milestone also hailed the beginning of tremendous growth for Latin American carriers.
  • The late 90s and the first decade of 21st century was an era of expansion and fleet modernization, with many legacy carriers such as LAN, TAM, Avianca, COPA, GOL, Aeroméxico, Mexicana, and others, growing their fleet with new and more efficient aircraft. This trend has continued to the present day, with the fleets of Latin American airlines being among the most modern in the world. It was also the era of consolidation and alliances, allowing airlines like LATAM and Avianca wider presence in the market, helping them become the strong players they are today and compete with foreign carriers worldwide.
  • Today, with over 1,200 aircraft sold and a backlog of nearly 650, more than 650 Airbus aircraft are in operation throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, representing a 53 percent market share of in-service fleet. Airbus has secured more than 65 percent of net orders in the region and in the past 10 years has tripled its in-service fleet.

While we feel nostalgic when think about simpler times, the industry has never been more exciting and fast changing.

The fleet in Latin America and the Caribbean will more than double in the next 20 years, but we need to ensure that the proper transportation infrastructure and aviation reform are part of that growth too. This is why Airbus remains grateful to ALTA and IATA for working to improve the aviation landscape in our region.

In spite of the many economic cycles and crises I’ve seen throughout my career, the region’s prospects remain very promising. Latin America's economy is predicted to grow significantly in the next two decades thanks to well established democracies, increasing urbanization and improving infrastructure.

We have also seen multiple waves of low cost carriers reinvent aviation and making it accessible to remote communities, attracting those who have never flown before. And we are seeing a growing middle class that will more than double to surpass 500 million by 2036, resulting in an increase in passengers traveling for holidays and business trips.

As you can see, we are facing new challenges, but I am confident our industry will continue to embrace these future opportunities.

Accepting this award from ALTA is not only a fantastic opportunity to reflect on how far we have come as an industry, but also a wonderful occasion to inspire the many of you —our readers — that are already writing the aviation history of the future.


Airbus is one of the most powerful companies in aviation. Here's a closer look at its rise from upstart to industry titan.

This May, Airbus will celebrate its 51st birthday. In the five decades since its founding, Airbus has gone from a fledgling upstart to one of the industry's titans.

In fact, Airbus, along with Boeing, now occupies one half of the global duopoly that dominates commercial airliner production.

The company we know today as Airbus can trace its history back to an agreement signed in July 1967 by the French, German, and British governments to strengthen their cooperation in the field of aviation technology.

Included in the agreement is a clause that called for the governments "to take appropriate measures for the joint development and production of an airbus."

However, the Airbus that we know today would not be formed until May 29, 1969, when the French and German governments agreed to lead a consortium that would produce and sell the A300B airliner.

It was a decision made out of necessity, Richard Aboulafia, an aviation industry analyst for the consulting company Teal Group, told Business Insider.

At the time, American firms like Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, and Lockheed were growing in strength and influence around the world. European manufacturers, once commercial aviation's leaders in innovation, were feeling the pinch.

The consortium would be based at the headquarters of Sud Aviation in Toulouse, France where it remains today.

Here's a closer look at the past 50 years of Airbus.

This article was originally published by Benjamin Zhang in May 2019. It was updated by David Slotnick in March 2020.


Tanking goes automatic

In-flight refuelling operations are among the most demanding missions. Both the tanker and receiver pilots need to operate in close formation, flying aircraft with different flight envelopes and ranging speeds, in day-and-night and all weather conditions, and above the battlefield…. There are many factors that are unpredictable and could put the missions at risk.

The Airbus A330MRTT has a solid track record providing safe operational services to its customer base and other allies like the USAF. The Airbus aircraft gained its reputation as a tanker after seeing action in the Middle East supporting coalition war fighters during Operation Shader and Okra against Daesh, with interoperability, mission success and availability rates as a highlight of its performance.

But for Airbus’ engineers, the road to success does not end here. They envisaged a new chapter where, under the name of SMART MRTT, the multirole tanker gained a new set of game-changing capabilities including enhanced maintenance solutions and the ability to carry out fully automated aerial refuelling operations.

The automatic refuelling system was called A3R and the idea behind it was clear: reduce air refuelling operator (ARO) workload, improve safety and optimise the rate of air-to-air refuelling (AAR) transfer in operational conditions to maximise aerial superiority. Everything at the ‘simple’ push of a bottom.

Revealed to the public in 2018, the A3R has met every milestone, including several aeronautic ‘world firsts’ such as the first automated contacts. In a joint operation with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) an Airbus’ A310 company development tanker performed seven automatic contacts with a RAAF KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport. More recently, in 2020, Airbus announced the first ever fully automatic refuelling operation with a boom system. The flight test campaign involved an Airbus A310 tanker testbed aircraft with an F-16 fighter aircraft of the Portuguese Air Force acting as a receiver.

2020 also saw the announcement by Airbus to collaborate with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) to develop the A330 SMART MRTT programme. Singapore became a key partner for the new automated aerial refuelling capabilities and under the agreement, an RSAF A330 MRTT took part in the development, flight test campaign and final certification programme.


A320 History

In the late 1960s, the manufacture of jet airliners was dominated by the U.S.A.. Boeing and Douglas were producing the bulk of the world’s premium airliners. When Airbus designed their launch aircraft the A300, they were already planning a range of different aircraft types with which to challenge this duopoly.

Nine derivatives were identified designated A300B1 through B9. In 1973 a 10th A300B10 was added to the list. This later was re-designated the A310 which was a smaller longer range aircraft than the A300.

Around this time, European aircraft makers were looking at replacements for the ageing BAC111 (one-eleven), Boeing 737-200 and DC9.

In June of 1977, the Joint European Transport (JET) program was initiated which was separate from the Airbus international partnership but involved the same entities as Airbus. The program worked on designs for the 130 to 188 seat market powered by CFM56 engines with a target cruise speed of Mach .84.

This was faster than the current 737 offering at the time.

This was faster than the current 737 offering at the time. In 1980 the project was passed to Airbus and augmented their studies into a single-aisle passenger jet offering. The three variants of the single-aisle design were named SA(single Aisle)1, SA2, and SA3. These would later be re-designated the A319, A320 and A321.

In February 1981 the project settled on the SA2 which had by now been re-designated the A320. The A320 blueprint described a short-range model with fuel tanks in the wings only. The Airbus A320 range was 3,440Km (1,860 NM), but a -200 version was also offered with a wing box fuel tank as well which increased the range to 5,280KM (2,850NM). Airbus worked together with Delta Airlines to finalise the design of the A320 variant which settled on a 150 seat capacity. As a point of difference with the Boeing 707 and 727, Airbus opted for a wider cabin. They reasoned that the extra weight incurred would be offset by more popularity with passengers. They also decided upon a longer thinner wing to increase lift and fuel efficiency. See our Specifications page for more details.

Perhaps the most notable feature of this new design was the revolutionary fly by wire concept. Gone was the traditional control yoke placed before the pilot. For the first time on a commercial airliner, the pilot’s main input control was a side stick. This stick fed pilot inputs into a flight control computer through electronic signals which were then translated into commands sent to control the flight surfaces. The computer not only controlled the flight surfaces but also checked that the pilot inputs did not jeopardise the aircraft by taking it outside the flight control envelope. In this way, flight safety was always maintained as well as a reduction of weight. This kind of control system had already been proven in fighter jets. The second leap forward was the introduction of the glass cockpit into this dynamic environment. Computer and electronic advances were being harnessed to change the way pilots interacted with the aircraft. Computer screens now replaced many of the analogue instruments that pilots depended on.

Airbus A320 History Timeline

DateEvent
October 1983 British Caledonian is the first to place a firm order for seven aircraft.
01 March 1984 After a three year wait, the UK government and British Aerospace (BAe) reach a funding agreement which has been holding up the whole project.
02 March 1984 The A320 project begins. With ninety six aircraft orders from five customers, Air France is the launch customer with orders for:
16 x A320-100
34 x A320-200
November 1984 Cyprus Airways was the first to order the variant with the slightly more powerful IAE V2500 engines which was produced by International Aero Engines comprised of : Rolls Royce, Pratt and Whitney, Japanese Aero Engines Corporation, Fiat and MTU Aero Engines.
October 1986 Northwest Airlines places the largest order thus far for 100 aircraft.
14 February 1987 The first A320 leaves the factory amid fanfare and celebrations.
22 February 1987 The first flight of the A320 which lasted three hours and twenty-three minutes began the rigorous flight certification program of 1,200 flying hours over 530 flights.
26 February 1988 Certification was received from the European Joint Aviation Authorities.
26 March 1988 Inaugural customer Air France receives their first Airbus A320.
26 June 1988 Air France A320-111 registration F-GFKC crashes into trees while doing a low-level fly past along the Mulhouse-Habshiem Airport main runway.
24 November 1988 The A321 or A320 stretch is launched with orders for 183 aircraft. There were few changes from the A320 design other than the fuselage stretch and some minor wing modifications. The A321 would also be assembled in Hamburg, Germany instead of Toulouse, France.
22 May 1992 Airbus first offered the shrunken A319. This version was 7 frames shorter than the original design or 3.73 meters.
11 March 1993 The A321, registration F-WWIA, made its maiden flight with IAE V2500 engines. Lufthansa ordered twenty of this variant.
May 1993 The second A321 prototype flew with CFM56-5B engines. Alitalia ordered forty of this option.
27 January 1994 Lufthansa receives the first of their A321s with IAE V2500 engines.
22 March 1994 Alitalia receives the first of their A321s with CFM56-5B engines.
25 August 1995 The A319 makes its maiden flight after rolling out of the Hamburg factory the previous day.
25 April 1996 Delivery of the first A319 to Swissair.
26 April 1999 The development of the smallest Airbus aircraft the A318 begins.
15 January 2002 The A318 makes its maiden flight in Hamburg.
23 May 2003 The CFM56 powered version receives JAA certification.
22 July 2003 The first A318 is delivered to Frontier Airlines.
17 December 2008 Airbus announced it was going to start testing an Aviation Partner designed winglet.
15 November 2009 Airbus announces the addition of Sharklets(Winglets) to A320 variants. Air New Zealand was the launch customer in early 2012.
17 January 2011 Airbus launches the A320neo with a firm order of 60 aircraft from Virgin America.
24 November 2015 The A320 NEO boasting a 15% fuel saving, gains type approval by both the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

If there is more you want to learn about this airliner, please visit: A320 Specs, A320 Interior, A320 Order Book and A320 Assembly.
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Watch the video: History of Airbus (January 2022).