Golden Jubilee of the Airbus A300

Airbus A300

History in the making

The first twin-engine widebody commercial aircraft in history, MSN 1, an A300B1 development aircraft with the tail number F-WUAB, made its maiden flight in Toulouse on October 28, 1972. Captain Max Fischl, First Officer Bernard Ziegler, Flight Test Engineers Pierre Caneil and Gunter Scherer, and Test Flight Engineer/Mechanic Romeo Zinzoni were the members of the test flight crew. The flight was originally scheduled for Friday, October 27, however, it was delayed by a day due to fog. The following day, Saturday the 28th, saw improved weather with some sunlight but there was still a chance of wind.

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However, it was determined that the weather was favorable enough for the trip to proceed. The flight was 1 hour and 25 minutes long, with a top speed of 185 knots (342.6 km/h) at an altitude of 14,000 feet (4,300m). The autopilot was activated, the testing of moving surfaces, and the retraction and deployment of the landing gear all took place. When returning to Blagnac Airport, Max Fischl expertly performed a controlled crosswind landing because of the infamous Toulouse “Vent d’Autan” wind gusts.

Musée Aeroscopia, Toulouse | Prashant Prabhakar

The first A300B1, MSN 1, was put into production in September 1969, and it was finished on September 28, 1972, exactly one month before it took off for the first time! Despite the advancements and changes in design, production, and assembly that has occurred over the past 50 years, the workshare, responsibilities, and specialization of the industrial sites and the logistical “ballet” involved in the construction of the first A300 remain remarkably similar for the current Airbus range of aircraft.

The second prototype Airbus A300B1 during “hot” and “high” tests in Madrid | Representative | Pinterest

Variants and derivatives

Before being sold to customers, the two additional aircraft that were made were utilized for flight testing and development. The second and final A300B1 to be constructed was MSN2. The first A300B2 was MSN 3. The original A300B1 was stretched, and this was done at Air France’s request. The A300B2 was 2.6 m longer and could carry 251 passengers in a normal two-class layout. This arrangement remained the same for all later A300B2 & B4 models; the B4 had the same seating capacity as the original B2 but a longer range, enabling it to compete in the medium-range market.

The A300B4, a longer-range model with more weight and fuel tanks, entered serial production in 1974. Later, the A300 proved to be an especially effective platform for enabling further development, and various variants were conceived, tested, and built during the course of the program’s over 35-year existence. These include the A300B10, which had its initial flight in April 1982 and was eventually launched in 1978 as the A310.

Air France A300B4-203 | Representative | Wikimedia Commons

In 1993, the passenger plane’s cargo variant, the A300-600F, would start flying. The A300B9 and A300B11 programs, which used the same revolutionary fuselage cross-section as the first A300, would eventually serve as the blueprint for the A330 and A340 family of aircraft. To fulfill internal Airbus requirements for greater large cargo capacity and to replace the aging Aero Spacelines Super Guppy fleet, five A300-600ST “Belugas” would be constructed.

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What sets it apart?

Although the A300’s unique selling point was that it was the first twin-engined widebody, constant design evolution across the family and the incorporation of new technology and materials earned it a place in aviation history with numerous industry “firsts”: the A300 FFCC was the first two-man forward-facing cockpit for a twin-aisle aircraft, the first application of composites on secondary, and later on primary structures.

Aero Spaceline Super Guppy | Representative |

37 operators are now using more than 250 A300/A310 aircraft. It is the third most commonly used type of freighter in the world, with freighters making up 75% of the fleet.

The A300’s role as the first in a family of commercial aircraft was one of the founders of Airbus’ less well-known goals at the time; an early advertisement for the A300 declared it to be “the start of something significant” in 1968. They had no idea how accurate those words would prove to be!