June 05, 2007

Airbus A300

Airbus A300 thumbnail imageThe Airbus A300 is a short to medium range widebody aircraft. Launched in 1972, it was the first twin-engined widebody in the world, and the first aircraft created by the Airbus consortium of European aerospace companies, which is now fully owned by EADS. The A300 (along with the A310) will cease production in July 2007. Freighter sales are to be fulfilled by a new A330-200F derivative. By the end of February 2007 a total of 561 A300 had been ordered and 556 delivered.

After the launch, sales of the A300 were weak for some years, with most orders going to airlines that had an obligation to order the locally-made product - notably Air France and Lufthansa. At one stage, Airbus had 16 "whitetail" A300s - completed but unsold aircraft - sitting on the tarmac.

Indian Airlines was the world's first domestic airline to purchase the A300. Some are still flying today for the airline.

In 1977 U.S. carrier Eastern Air Lines leased four A300s as an in-service trial. Frank Borman, ex-astronaut and the then CEO, was impressed as the A300 consumed 30% less fuel than his fleet of Tristars and then ordered 23 of the type. This was followed by an order from Pan Am. From then on, the A300 family sold well, eventually reaching the current total of 858 on order or delivered.

The aircraft found particular favour with Asian airlines, being bought by Japan Air System, Korean Air, Thai Airways International, Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, China Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines, Indian Airlines, Trans Australia Airlines and many others. As Asia didn't have restrictions similar to the FAA 60-minutes rule for twin-engine airliners which existed at the time, Asian airlines used A300s for routes across Bay of Bengal and South China Sea.

By 1981 Airbus was growing rapidly, with over 300 aircraft sold and options for 200 more planes for over forty airlines. Alarmed by the success of the A300, Boeing responded with the new Boeing 767.

The A300 provided Airbus the experience of manufacturing and selling airliners competitively. The basic fuselage of the A300 was later stretched (A330 and A340), shrunk (A310), or modified into derivatives (A300-600ST Beluga Super Transporter).

The A300 is reaching the end of its market life and is now mainly sold as a dedicated freighter. The largest freight operator of the A300 in the United States is Federal Express, which, at January, 2006, had 95 A300/310 aircraft. United Parcel Service (UPS) also has started using freighter versions of the A300. The current version is the A300-600R and is rated for 180-minute ETOPS. The A300 has enjoyed renewed interest in the secondhand market for conversion to freighters. The freighter versions - either new-build A300-600s or converted ex-passenger A300-600s, A300B2s and B4s - account for most of the world freighter fleet after the Boeing 747 freighter.

In March 2006 Airbus announced the closure of the A300/A310 line making them the first Airbus aircraft to be discontinued. The final production A300 made its initial flight on 18 April 2007. It is an A300F freighter for FedEx. Airbus has announced a support package to keep A300s flying commercially until at least 2025.

Lufthansa Airbus A300B4-600 imageLufthansa A300B4-600

Airbus A300 Development history

The mission requirements were given by Frank Kolk, an American Airlines executive, in 1966, for a Boeing 727 replacement on busy short to medium range routes such as US transcontinental flights. His brief included a passenger capacity of 250 to 300 seated in a twin-aisle configuration and fitted with two engines, with the capability of carrying full passengers without penalty from high altitude airports like Denver. American manufacturers responded with widebody trijets, the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and the Lockheed L-1011 Tristar, as twinjets were banned from many routes by the FAA.

French president Charles de Gaulle resented the US domination of civil aviation and wanted a European airliner that could compete with American designs. Concorde was part of the answer, designed for intercontinental routes; the other was the A300, designed to meet Kolk's US domestic requirements.

In September 1967 the British, French and German governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to start development of the 300 seat Airbus A300. An earlier announcement had been made in July 1967 but had been complicated by the British government's refusal to back British Aircraft Corporation's (BAC) proposed competitor, a development of the BAC 1-11, and instead supported the Airbus aircraft.

In the months following this agreement both the French and British governments expressed doubts about the aircraft. Another problem was the requirement for a new engine to be developed by Rolls-Royce, the RB207. In December 1968 the French and British partner companies (Sud Aviation and Hawker Siddeley) proposed a revised configuration, the 250 seat Airbus A250. Renamed the A300B the aircraft would not require new engines, reducing development costs. To attract potential US customers, American General Electric CF6-50 engines powered the A300 instead of the British RB207. The British government was upset and withdrew from the venture: however, the British firm Hawker-Siddeley stayed on as a contractor, developing the wings for the A300, which were pivotal in later versions' impressive performance from short domestic to long intercontinental flights.(Years later, through British Aerospace, the UK reentered the consortium.)

Airbus Industrie was formally set up in 1970 following an agreement between AĆ©rospatiale (France), the antecedents to Deutsche Aerospace (Germany) (joined by CASA of Spain in 1971). Each company would deliver its sections as fully equipped, ready-to- fly items.

In 1972 the A300 made its maiden flight. The first production model, the A300B2, entered service in 1974. Initially the success of the consortium was poor but by 1979 there were 81 aircraft in service. It was the launch of the A320 in 1981 that guaranteed Airbus as a major player in the aircraft market - the aircraft had over 400 orders before it first flew, compared to 15 for the A300 in 1972.

The A300 was the first airliner to use just-in-time manufacturing techniques. Complete aircraft sections were manufactured by consortium partners all over Europe. These were airlifted to the final assembly line at Toulouse-Blagnac by a fleet of Boeing 377-derived Aero Spacelines Super Guppy aircraft. Originally devised as a way to share the work among Airbus's partners without the expense of two assembly lines, it turned out to be a more efficient way of building airplanes (more flexible and reduced costs) as opposed to building the whole airplane at one site. This fact was not lost on Boeing, which, over thirty years later, decided to manufacture the Boeing 787 in this manner, using outsized 747s to ferry wings and other parts from Japan.

The A300 cemented European cooperation in aviation. Its first flight was commemorated on a French three-franc stamp.

Olympic Airways Airbus imageOlympic Airways Airbus A300B4-600R

Airbus A300 Technology

Airbus partners employed the latest technology, some derived from the Concorde. On entry into service, in 1974, the A300 was very advanced and influenced later subsonic airliner designs.

The technological highlights include:
* Advanced wings by de Havilland (later BAE Systems) with:
supercritical airfoil section for economical performance
advanced aerodynamically efficient flight controls
* 222-inch diameter circular fuselage section for 8-abreast passenger seating and wide enough for 2 LD3 cargo containers side-by-side
* Structures made from metal billets, reducing weight
* First airliner to be fitted with wind shear protection
* Advanced autopilots capable of flying the aircraft from climb-out to landing
* Electrically controlled braking system

Later A300s incorporate other advanced features such as:
* 2-man crew by automating the flight engineer's functions, an industry first
* Glass cockpit flight instruments
* Extensive use of composites for an aircraft of its era
* Center-of-gravity control by shifting around fuel
* The first airliner to use wingtip fences for better aerodynamics

All these made the A300 a perfect substitute for the widebody trijets such as McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Lockheed L-1011 for short to medium routes. On the early versions, Airbus even used the same engines and similar major systems as the DC-10.

American Airlines A300 imageAmerican Airlines A300

Source: Wikipedia.org

No comments: