“You can’t compete by copying rivals. You’ve got to create something better, much better...”
These are the words of Airbus founding father (or at least one of them), Roger Béteille, and they’re very poignant when you think about it. 50 years ago the aviation world was mainly dominated by Boeing, however changes were afoot in the small Southern France city of Toulouse.
Airbus broke the mould in 1972, creating the world first twin engine wide body aircraft - the Airbus A300, nearly 10 years before the inception of its direct competitor - the Boeing 767. The A300 also set a major trend that would grow to become the common standard in the industry, by using composite materials in the aircrafts construction. It was also one of the first types of aircraft to receive an ETOPS rating.
The aircraft was widely used by a number of airlines around the world, with 561 of the type being delivered by Airbus, however one of its few downfalls compared to other competing aircraft, was its smaller amount of range. That being considered, it would be safe to say the A300 was a success. So much so in fact, the general shape of the fuselage was recycled.
The A300 led to the development of the A310, a slightly smaller version of the A300, built to suit the demands of airlines who couldn’t quite fill the capacity that the A300 offered. Rather than spend the money to develop an entirely new aircraft to be designated as the A310, the fuselage of the existing A300 model was shortened.
This wasn’t the first instance of the fuselage shape being used more than once however. The A300s legacy lives on in the form of the A330 (and to a lesser extent the A340). The A330 features a much longer version of the original A300 fuselage, however with considerably different wings and power plants.
The A300 also underwent a huge conversion programme in order to turn it into a dedicated freighter for Airbus themselves, the A300-600ST “Beluga”. These were to replace Airbus’ Super Guppy aircraft, and were used to transport major components for other aircraft to Airbus’ various factories. These days they can be seen frequently flying to Hawarden near Chester, transporting wings to and from Europe.
These days, numbers of serviceable A300s are, understandably, quite low. Their age has meant a number of them have been relegated to cargo duties, with only a handful still flying in passenger service. The same can be said for the A310. Even the groundbreaking A300-600ST Beluga’s have since been replaced with specialist converted Airbus A330s.
Airbus are not normally associated as being major players within the “historical” sense of the aviation industry, their greatest claim to fame obviously lying in the worlds first double decked aircraft, the Airbus A380. That doesn’t mean to say that Airbus haven’t had their moments. The creation of the A300 being one of the biggest moments in the industry, is somewhat quite an understated one, unless you really read into the history of it.
Since their inception, Airbus have had a strong foothold in the market, offering direct competition to Boeing. Their innovation has pushed other manufacturers to also up their own games in order to compete with the European consortium, with varying degrees of effect.
Can we expect more memorabilia to become available from these classic Airbus types? Quite probably. The two Aviationtag releases (EC-DLH and CA-01) are extremely small - both only 1200 tags cut from each aircraft, and are widely considered some of the rarest tags available. Whilst there has already been a huge amount of Airbus releases, it would be extremely nice to see more of these Godfathers enter the market.