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Airbus A300

By Patrick Mondout

As the Americans were dominating the jet age with their Boeing 707s, 727s, DC-8s, and Douglas DC-9s, the Europeans decided they had to band together to gain back market share. Both Air France and British European Airways had a need for a high-density, short-to-medium range jet and three were on the drawing boards of American manufacturers (747, DC-10 and L-1011). The British and French were working successfully on the Concorde and began drafting plans for what would be called the HBN100. Would the Europeans be able to compete?

The Europeans took the cooperation one step further on September 26, 1967 by announcing that the British, French and West Germans would work together to develop what would be the first in a long line of Airbus aircraft: the A300. The A300 was based on the work done at Hawker Siddeley and Breguet and Nord on the HBN100.

On March 1, 1969, the British government, unhappy that GE engines had been selected instead of Rolls-Royce, announced they were pulling out of the Airbus consortium. The A300 then officially became the A300b. Private British aerospace company Hawker-Siddeley later stepped in to take the place of the British government (though the British government eventually bargained themselves back in). Eventually, Fokker of Holland and CASA of Spain would be included too.

The A300B1 prototype took to the skies for the first time on October 28, 1972 in Toulouse, France. It was the only of the four new wide-body jets to use only two engines. With an OPEC-fueled rise in gas prices just around the corner, the economy of a two engine plane was about to become a major asset.

Airbus A300

Image courtesy of Lufthansa

While the A300 was an advancement in many ways, it was the last of the four widebodies to enter the marketplace. European airlines - many of which were owned by the same countries financing Airbus - were quick to put the large jets into service, but Airbus initially had trouble selling them outside of Europe.

Excitement over a sale to America's Western Airlines quickly diminished when it fell through early in 1977. Eastern Airlines, however, borrowed four A-300s for a six-month trial later that year. Eastern's Frank Borman was impressed with the fuel economy of the A300 (it used up to one-third less fuel than the L-1011s that he was flying). In early 1978, Borman agreed to purchase 23 of the new jets. This was the commercial breakthrough Airbus needed; a major American airline would be flying the European plane.

With the consolidation of aircraft manufacturers in the United States (McDonnell-Douglas merged with Boeing in the late 1990s), the battle for commercial aerospace supremacy it is now a two horse race between Boeing and Airbus.

Airbus A300 at a Glance
Engines2 GE CF6-80C2A5 or 2 Pratt & Whitney PW4158 turbofans
Cruising Speed600
Span147ft 1in
Length177ft 5in
Height54ft 3in
Built525 (still in production)
Final ProductionN/A
Mesurements refer to A300-600


Share Your Memories!

What do you remember about the Airbus A300? Were you a member of the flight crew on one? Have you any interesting stories to share? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"I remember that in 1977 or 78 (I must have been ten years old or so) my parents took me to an "Open Day" at the Airbus manufacturer MBB in Hamburg. I was impressed by the green bodies of planes (as any plane I knew was perfectly white and silver). I bought a cap and a jacket made of some kind of paper with the airbus silhouette on it. Airbus became my third-favourite plane (after no. 1 Boeing 747 and no. 2 boeing 727).
Today, I am working on a review about Airbus' first flight for our local newspaper which also concerns the Hamburg Airbus Location."




A Civil Air Transport Force Pan Am A300 comes in for a landing at Los Angeles International Airport.

DOD photo by Bob Simons

Model: A300

Manufacturer: Airbus

Country: European consortium

First Flight: October 28, 1972

First Passenger Flight: May 23, 1974

Launch CustomerAir France

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