As the world holds their collective breath for the latest technological aerospace creation from Boeing, the 797, few remember that Airbus actually built it back in the 1960s.
It was called the Airbus A300.
What was the A300?
The Airbus A300 was a lot of firsts. It was the first jet aircraft designed and built by Airbus. It was also the world’s first twin-jet twin-aisle airliner. Built from 1972 all the way up to 2007, the A300 was a marvelous aircraft that filled a role in the skies that has yet to be replaced.
It could carry 266 passengers and fly a long way for its time; 4,000 nautical miles.
The story of why the A300 exists is the same as why we have Airbus today. Back in the 1960s, there were many aircraft companies operating in Europe, from the British Overseas Aircraft Corporation (BOAC) to Sud Aviation of France. They recognized that they would not be able to achieve the order numbers to take on Boeing (the market leader of the time) and thus should join forces.
And join forces they did, with the likes of Nord Aviation and German aerospace companies coming together “for the joint development and production of an airbus”. An ‘airbus’, of course, was the generally accepted term for commercial aircraft at the time, and easily translated between all the member nations.
To build this ‘airbus’, these companies turned to their supporting nations. British, German and French governments came together to finance the project, fearing that American aviation companies would otherwise dominate the continent.
Airbus would be building and designing the Concorde at the same time.
And why this design? During the consultation period, both American Airlines and Air France noted the desire for a twin-aisle high capacity aircraft.
With a mission statement in hand and financing in place, the A300 was born.
It immediately won success with an order for six aircraft from Air France and would go on a six week tour to win American business (such as Eastern Airlines). To help attract the American market, Airbus designed the aircraft in English and using imperial units of measurement.
How does it compare to the upcoming Boeing 797?
Naturally, it would be foolish to compare the Airbus A300, an almost 50-year-old aircraft, to a concept machine that has yet to be announced.
But if we were to stack them back to back:
The Boeing 797 will seat around 225-275 passengers and fly around 5,000 nautical miles.
The A300 seats 266 passengers and flies around 4,000 nautical miles. With a bit of suspension of disbelief and modern technology, an updated A300neo could easily match the Boeing aircraft.
So, if Airbus already has the aircraft that airlines are calling out for… why is Boeing building it?
Why airlines don’t use the A300 anymore
The last A300 was built in 2007. Specifically, the last freight A300 was built in 2007.
Airbus would use the design of the A300 to develop improved versions for better range and more capacity, such as the A330 and A340. With airlines seeking more passengers and range, many chose other bigger aircraft, or if they needed smaller/similar capacity, they would pick the more fuel efficient single-aisle twin-jet aircraft such as the A320 and Boeing 737. The remaining A300s still flying were converted into freight transports.
It does raise an interesting question of why now airlines are now looking for something like the A300, and if there is a market for Airbus to bring it back. Airbus has said they will keep the A300 flying until at least 2025.
What do you think? Should Airbus bring back the A300?