Before merging with Northwest Airlines, Delta had only flown one type of Airbus aircraft: the A310. These aircraft came from Pan Am when Delta acquired Pan Am’s transatlantic routes in November 1991. The planes flew until 1995 – a short lifespan. Here’s what happened to Delta’s A310s.
Delta and the A310s
Delta acquired transatlantic routes and Pan Am’s hub operations at New York-JFK and Frankfurt, Germany, in 1991. This gave Delta a solid footing in the transatlantic market where the airline still remains strong today. In addition to taking over these operations, Delta also took on 21 A310s from Pan Am as part of a 45-aircraft acquisition agreement.
Seven of these A310s were the -200 variant while another 14 were the longer-range -300s. In 1993, Delta retired nine Pan Am A310s and replaced them with new A310-300s leased from Airbus. The remaining 12 Pan Am A310s were returned to Airbus. The last A310s exited Delta’s fleet in 1995 with the Boeing 767-300s replacing them according to Delta’s Flight Museum.
Most ended up being converted to cargo
At some point or another, most of the A310s ended up flying for a cargo carrier, FedEx. The last of Delta’s former A310s to end up at FedEx was finally stored in 2019. However, the majority were already stored or scrapped by 2012 when FedEx sought to replace its fleet with newer jets.
Older aircraft usually do end up getting converted to cargo jets when possible. This is an alternate use for the aircraft and prevents them from being retired early. The cargo conversion also helps lengthen the lifespan of the jets, making them operable for a few years after retirement from passenger services.
In fact, FedEx Express continues to fly MD-11 freighters and Airbus A300s. Although, these are on their way out.
Some flew for other airlines
Not all of the A310s went to cargo conversions straight after retirement. Some of them ended up flying for other airlines. Air India flew three former Delta A310s.
Aerolineas Argentinas, now a fellow Skyteam member, also flew a few A310s that came from Delta’s fleet.
In Russia, another current Skyteam member, Aeroflot, also took on some of Delta’s A310s.
Others went to carriers like Air Jamaica and Khalifa Airways. Air Jamaica was Jamaica’s national airline until it ceased operations in 2015 after Caribbean Airlines took over the airline in 2011.
Khalifa Airways was an Algerian carrier that flew briefly from the late-1990s until 2003.
Some aircraft faced incidents
Some of the planes ended up meeting untimely ends. N811PA, an ex-Pan Am jet, first flew for Aeroflot before it was transferred over to S7 Airlines. Operating as F-OGYP with S7, the aircraft crashed as S7 flight 778 from Moscow to Irkutsk on July 9th, 2006. The plane overshot the runway. 125 people lost their lives in this incident.
Another ex-Pan Am A310, N814PA, flew for TAROM as YR-LCC. This jet also crashed as flight 371 just after takeoff from Bucharest-Otopeni International Airport en route to Brussels on March 31st, 1995. All 60 people onboard the aircraft passed away in the incident.
Another A310, N838AB, one of the ones Delta took on as a lease from Airbus, flew for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). The aircraft was flying from Riyadh to Peshawar on June 24th, 2014, when the plane was struck with bullets while on approach to Peshawar. One passenger and two crew members sustained injuries while the passenger, unfortunately, passed away.
Delta and Airbus today
The A310s were the only Airbus aircraft to fly for Delta Air Lines until its merger with Northwest in 2008. Since then, Delta has had an affinity for Airbus aircraft ordering A321ceos, A321neos, A330s, A330neos, and A350s.
Did you fly on Delta’s A310s? Do you have fond memories of the A310? Let us know in the comments!
Aircraft historical data came from Planespotters.net.