Over the years that the A310 was in production, 252 units were delivered to airline customers. Now, just 27 remain in active service, mostly with governmental and air force owners. However, there are still 10 passengers can fly on today – here’s where you’ll find them.
The biggest fleet
Iranian operator Mahan Air is the world’s biggest user of the A310. Data from ch-aviation shows it has five in active service, with a further five already retired. The remaining five range from 23 years old to a grand 31 years of age, and all are the A310-300 model.
Two were delivered new to Lufthansa, one to Turkish Airlines and the other two to Uzbekistan Airways and CSA Czechoslovak Airlines. The Turkish and Uzbekistan planes came directly to Mahan, while the other three spent time with other airlines. These included MIAT, Kyrgyz Trans Avia and Vertir Airlines.
Most have been with Mahan for some time. EP-MMP has been in its fleet since 2002, while -MNO and -MNV were added in 2009. 2014 saw the arrival of -MMJ, while the ex-Uzbekistan plane joined the fleet as recently as last August.
The Uzbekistan A310 is the only aircraft with first class seats. It has a cabin of 12 first, accompanied by 30 business class seats and 150 economy. The two planes that arrived in 2010 both have 24 business class seats and 164 economy, while the most dense are -MMJ and -MMP, both of which have 12 business and 190 economy class seats.
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The single aircraft operators
Ariana Afghan Airlines and Iran Airtour Airlines both have one A310-300 apiece. Ariana is the largest airline of Afghanistan and is the nation’s flag-carrying airline. Its fleet consists of just three aircraft, two 737-400s and one A310-300. The two Boeings are leased from GECAS, so the A310 is its only owned aircraft.
YA-CAV is a 32-year-old A310-300, originally delivered to Turkish Airlines as TC-JDB in April 1989. After 20 years of service with Turkish, it arrived with Ariana in 2009. It’s configured in an all-economy layout, with a total of 237 seats onboard.
Iran Airtours has been adding aircraft to its fleet over the past few years, mostly all older, more unusual aircraft. From a low point in 2013 when it had just three MD-83s, it now has a fleet of 12 aircraft in its stable. It’s a rather mixed fleet, including four A300s, one A320, five MD-82s and one MD-83. And the A310, of course.
Registered EP-MDL, this is a 29-year-old A310-300, originally delivered to Tarom in 1992. It moved to Armenia Airways in 2018, but only for a season, before arriving with Iran Airtour from storage in August 2020. It has 189 economy seats and 20 business class seats.
The VIP option
Tow operators have given a rather glamorous upgrade to the aging A310. Al-Atheer Aviation has given a home to a 34-year-old A310-300, registered HZ-NSA. Originally delivered to Sultan’s Flight in Brunei, the A310 is well accustomed to transporting VIP guests around.
However, when Al-Atheer took the aircraft in 2004, it gave it a full makeover. Working with Sabena Technics, the A310 was given a complete interior overhaul, as well as its C Checks to be ready for service. Today, it flies with a light load of 43 business class seats.
— SabenaTechnics (@SabenaTechnics) December 7, 2016
Registered as HZ-NSA, you won’t find it on any trackers, as it’s blocked from flight tracking sites to allow completely discreet operation. One lucky spotted managed to grab this footage of it in Zurich a few years back:
National Legacy in Kuwait acquired one A310-300 in 2016, which had formerly flown for Kuwait Airways. It was previously flown for the government as 9K-ALD, but is now flown by the business charter airline as T7-FTH. Again, it’s a rare spot, but you can enjoy it in this clip below:
The ‘passenger’ A310
The final aircraft on our list is sort of still in passenger service. F-WNOV is a 32-year-old A310-300, first delivered to Interflug and spending some time at the Luftwaffe before arriving in France. Its new owner is Novespace, which has had the aircraft since 2014. It does take passengers, but with one key drawback – it has hardly any seats.
For a large-ish widebody like the A310, having just 43 seats onboard is pretty lightly loaded. But this isn’t a VIP configured A310, rather it only has seats in one area of the cabin, with the rest of the space left empty – for a very good reason.
The aircraft performs something called parabolic flights. Passengers are strapped in and take off to an altitude of around 7,600 m. At this point, the aircraft performs a 50 degree ‘nose up’ maneuver, climbing to 8,500 m before pointing its nose down at 42 degrees and transitioning back to the 7,600 m flight level.
The effect on the passengers onboard is a 22 second period of complete weightlessness. This is used to perform a range of scientific experiments, as well as joyrides for the general public. It looks a lot of fun, and is certainly on my bucket list now!