How The Airbus A310 Originated: The A300B10

This week marks 43 years since the Airbus A310 program was launched. Initially going by the A300B10, the project was announced on July 7th, 1978 and went on to continue the momentum for Airbus during its early days.

Airbus A310 Jet
There were high hopes for the Airbus A310, but the program ended within 17 years before the preceding A300 program ended. Photo: Airbus

The next stage

The Airbus A300 got off to a flying start following its service entry with Air France in October 1972. Airlines were fond of the plane’s high capacity on long distances.

With the ball rolling, FlightGlobal explains that Airbus was mulling over three derivatives based around the A300 fuselage. These were called the B9, B10 and B11. The first was a considerably stretched version of the A300. Meanwhile, the second was billed to be a short-fuselage variant and the third a four-engined long-range plane.

Airbus A300
The Airbus A300 was well received, but there was a demand for an alternative solution from certain carriers looking for a slightly shorter model to be deployed on routes requiring increased frequencies. Photo: Airbus

There was a lot of interest in such an aircraft as the B10. Moreover, the aviation industry was going through a strong recovery following crises in the early 1970s. So, Airbus determined that the B10 was the one that was needed to be introduced first. Subsequently, the A300-B10 program was launched in July 1978. This announcement was a mere week before Boeing launched the 767 – another twinjet with a similar size.

American Airlines 767
The ongoing Boeing vs Airbus rivalry traces its routes back to the 1970s amid the battle of the two aircraft manufacturing giants’ innovative jets. Photo: Getty Images.

Now going by the name of the A310, the plane entered into service in April 1983, six months after the Boeing 767-200. Swissair was the lucky airline to debut the aircraft. Notably, carriers loved the type’s longer range, which combined well with new ETOPS regulations, making it a fantastic choice for transatlantic flights.

KLM A310
Swissair wasn’t the only major carrier deploying the Airbus A310 soon after its introduction, with the likes of KLM and Lufthansa getting hold of the jet in the early 1980s. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

Switching around

Overall, the B10 was a scaled-down edition of the A300. However, there were notable differences between the pair. Even though the fuselage shared the same cross-section, the latter model couldn’t serve as many passengers due to its shorter length.

Swissair A310
General Electric CF6 and Pratt & Whitney JT9D versions of the Airbus A310 were offered from the beginning, while a Rolls-Royce RB.211-powered edition was also looked at. Photo: Rob Croes / Anefo via Wikimedia Commons

Airways notes that the rear fuselage was significantly re-designed. It had altered tapering, along with a step aft of the rear bulkhead to ramp up capacity. This modification was also fitted on later A300s.

Airbus was originally planning two different A310s. The 2,000 NM (3,700 km), 200-passenger A310-100 was going to be deployed on regional routes, while the higher MTOW A310-200 would handle transcontinental services. This variant would be able to carry the same load at distances 1,000 NM (1,900 km) further.

The A310-100 was originally proposed for Lufthansa. However, there was a lack of demand for the type overall. Subsequently, the plans for this particular model were scrapped in 1979, with no units produced. Nevertheless, Airbus was still committed to the program.

“The A310’s 222-inch fuselage cross-section is the widest in its category, giving passengers as much space as possible and delivering a feeling of comfort throughout the aircraft,” Airbus shares.

“The unmatched flexibility of this jetliner’s seating arrangements – which can accommodate between 190 and 230 passengers in a typical three-class layout – allows operators to customise the A310 cabin to best suit their needs and market requirements.”

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A short program

Six A310 versions were designed. The first was the -200, paving way for the -300 to be built. The latter had greater range and became the mainstay for the type. Two convertible variants were also designed, which were the -200C and -300C. These planes were joined by the -200F and 300F freighters. Another variant to be produced was the A310 MRT/MRTT, a derivative of the 300C. The other variant was the -100 concept, which did not make the cut.

Emirates A310F
Cargo carriers across the continents of all sizes have been deploying the type well on their shipping operations over the years. Photo: Getty Images

In total, 255 A310s were produced until the program ended in 1998. The type continues to play a role in global aviation. When it comes to passenger services, Ariana Afghan Airlines, Mahan Air, Taban Air, and Iran Air fly the type.

Even though nearly double the number of A300s were sold, the A310 could still be spotted all across the continents over the decades. Singapore Airlines held the most units, with 23 in its fleet. Lufthansa was just behind with 20 units. Even the legacy carrier Pan American jumped on the bandwagon with 18 aircraft.

Other carriers with sizeable holdings included Turkish Cargo with 14, Canadian Airlines with 12, Pakistan International Airlines with 12, Wardair with 12, Air France with 11, and Kuwait Airways with 11.

Air Transat
Air Transat was the third-largest user of passenger Airbus A310 in the world until the carrier retired the model last year. Photo: Getty Images.

The plane can also still be seen with Turkish Cargo and Royal Jordanian Cargo on shipping operations. The aircraft is also used on exciting projects such as the “zero gravity” flights.

Altogether, the A310 didn’t have the same popularity as the A300. However, this factor shouldn’t come as a great surprise as the roots of the program show that it was viewed as an extension of A300 from the start.

The A310 was initially planned as a derivative of its predecessor. It was even originally going by the monicker of the A300B10. It was supposed to meet certain requirements of the market and not an all-encompassing solution. The fact that variants that would have made the type versatile were dropped before production undoubtedly contributed to the lack of long-term demand, despite the initial buzz.

What are your thoughts about the Airbus A310? Have you flown on the aircraft over the years? If so, please share your experiences with us. Let us know what you think of the plane and its operations in the comment section.