Airbus Founder Roger Béteille Passes Away Aged 97


Sad news from Airbus, as one of the founders of the European aerospace giant has passed away, aged 97 years old. 

Roger Béteille Airbus
Roger Béteille. Photo: Airbus

Roger Béteille was one of the leaders behind the original Airbus A300 program and helped make the company what it is today.

Who was Roger Béteille?

Roger Béteille was born in 1921 in Aveyron, France. He would go on to work for Sud Aviation in the tail end of the war in 1943. He would actually become a pilot in 1945 and test new aircraft for the company in 1952. Later, he was on the pilot team that test flew the Caravelle for the first time.

In 1967, he was asked to join a project to develop a 300-seater commercial twin-jet. As the design progressed, Lufthansa and Air France actually wanted a smaller jet (around 250 seats) to better cater to their markets. Thus, Béteille got the role of the chief engineer, and brought the aircraft to life.

Roger Béteille
Roger Béteille inspecting an Airbus aircraft’s GE engines. Photo: Wikimedia

Part of his ingenuity was designing the cross-section design of the aircraft, so that it could hold two cargo containers side by side. This design was so clever that it is still in use today.

Airbus A300 cross section. Photo: Wikimedia

Along with Felix Kracht, who would become the first Airbus production director, Béteille developed the multicultural and regional production processes that made Airbus as successful as it is today, utilizing talent from all over Europe.


“I wanted to use all the available talents and capacities to their utmost without worrying about the colour of the flag or what language was spoken,” – Roger Béteille in an Airbus press release.

In 1969, the A300B was launched and took to the skies, and a year later Airbus was born. This landed Béteille the well-deserved role of senior vice president of Engineering.

What was his career at Airbus?

One of the very first suggestions that Roger Béteille made under the Airbus banner was to move the final assembly plant in Toulouse, to allow customers to see the finished product rolling off the production line. Since then, Airbus has expanded its facilities and stuck with this idea.


From here, he would oversee the expansion of the Airbus market, noting a remarkable victory of selling the A300 to Eastern Airlines in 1977. He was also instrumental in developing multiple aircraft lines at Airbus, and in 1984 he managed the launch of the massively successful A320.

Roger Béteille
Roger Béteille with the Airbus team in 1972. Photo: Wikimedia

Béteille was quoted by Airbus as saying,

“I was convinced that Airbus would never take off with a single aircraft. Potential customers would wonder if we’d still be around in ten or 20 years’ time.”

He also championed fly-by-wire controls that allowed cross-functionality between Airbus aircraft and cockpit commonality.

Our thoughts at Simple Flying go to this legend of a man and his surviving family, who helped shape the aviation world we love today.

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