Airbus A300 Series
Twin-jet Airliner

Archive Photos ¹

[Airbus A300B Photos via the Skytamer Archive]

Overview ²

  • Airbus A300
  • Role: Wide-body jet airliner
  • National origin: Multi-national
  • Manufacturer: Airbus
  • First flight: 28 October 1972
  • Introduction: 30 May 1974 with Air France
  • Status: Out of production, In service
  • Primary users: FedEx Express; UPS Airlines; European Air Transport; Mahan Air
  • Produced: 1974-2007
  • Number built: 561
  • Variants: A300-600ST Beluga; Airbus A310
  • Developed into: Airbus A330; Airbus A340

The Airbus A300 is a short-range to medium-range widebody jet airliner. Launched in 1972 as the worlD's first twin-engined widebody, it was the first product of Airbus Industrie, a consortium of European aerospace companies, fully owned today by EADS. The A300 can typically seat 266 passengers in a two-class layout, with a maximum range of 4,070 nautical miles (7,540 km) when fully loaded, depending on model.

Launch customer Air France introduced the type into service on 30 May 1974. Production of the A300 ceased in July 2007, along with its smaller A310 derivative. Freighter sales for which the A300 competed are to be fulfilled by a new A330-200F derivative.

Development ²

The mission requirements were given in 1966 by Frank Kolk, an American Airlines executive, for a Boeing 727 replacement on busy short-range to medium-range routes such as United States 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.

In September 1967, the British, French, and German governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding to start development of the 300-seat Airbus A300. An earlier announcement had been made in July 1967, but at that time the announcement had been clouded by the British Government's support for the Airbus, which coincided with its refusal to back British Aircraft Corporation's (BAC) proposed competitor, a development of the BAC 1-11, despite a preference for the latter expressed by British European Airways (BEA).

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 triple-spool RB207 of 47,500 lbf. 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.

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

In 1972 the A300 made its maiden flight, which was later commemorated on a French three franc stamp. The first production model, the A300B2, entered service in 1974 followed by the A300B4 one year later. 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 1987 that established 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' partners without the expense of two assembly lines, it turned out to be a more efficient way of building aircraft (more flexible and reduced costs) as opposed to building the whole aircraft at one site.

Design ²

Airbus partners employed the latest technology, some derived from the Concorde. On entry into service in 1974, the A300 was a very advanced plane 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
  • 5.64 m (222 in) 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
  • Wingtip fences for better aerodynamics (first introduced on the A310-300).

All these made the A300 a 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 used the same engines and similar major systems as the DC-10.

Operational History ²

After the launch, sales of the A300 were weak for some years, with most orders going to airlines that had an obligation to favor the domestically made product - notably Air France and Lufthansa. At one stage, Airbus had 16 "whitetail" A300s - completed but unsold aircraft - sitting on the tarmac. Germanair was the worlD's first charter airline and Indian Airlines was the worlD's first domestic airline to purchase the A300. These have now been retired.

In 1974, Korean Air ordered four A300s, becoming the first non-European international airline to order Airbus aircraft. Airbus saw South-East Asia as a vital market ready to be opened up and believed Korean Air to be the 'key'.

It was becoming clear that the whole concept of a short haul widebody was flawed. Airlines operating the A300 on short haul routes were forced to reduce frequencies in order to try and fill the aircraft. As a result they lost passengers to airlines operating more frequent narrow body flights. The supposed widebody comfort which it was assumed passengers would demand was illusory. Eventually, Airbus had to build its own narrow body aircraft (the A320) to compete with the Boeing 737 and McDonnell Douglas DC-9/MD-80. The savior of the A300 was the advent of Extended Range Twin Operations (ETOPS), a revised FAA rule which allows twin-engined airliners to fly long-distance routes that were previously off-limits to them. This enabled Airbus to develop the aircraft as a medium/long range airliner.

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 that the A300 consumed 30% less fuel than his fleet of Tristars and then ordered 23 of the type. This order is often cited as the point at which Airbus came to be seen as a serious competitor to the large American aircraft-manufacturers Boeing and McDonnell Douglas. This was followed by an order from Pan Am. From then on, the A300 family sold well, eventually reaching a total of 878 delivered aircraft.

In December 1977, AeroCóndor Colombia became the first Airbus operator in Latin America, leasing one Airbus A300, named “Ciudad de Barranquilla”.

The aircraft found particular favor with Asian airlines, being bought by Japan Air System, Korean Air, China Eastern Airlines, 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 did not 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 the Bay of Bengal and South China Sea.

In 1977, the A300B4 became the first ETOPS compliant aircraft - its high performance and safety standards qualified it for Extended Twin Engine Operations over water, providing operators with more versatility in routing. In 1982 Garuda Indonesia became the first airline to fly the A300B4-200FF. 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), shortened (A310), or modified into derivatives (A300-600ST Beluga Super Transporter).The largest freight operator of the A300 is FedEx Express, which, as of January 2012, had 71 A300 aircraft in service. UPS Airlines also operates freighter versions of the A300. The final version was 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 and was delivered on 12 July 2007. It was an A300F freighter for FedEx. Airbus has announced a support package to keep A300s flying commercially until at least 2025.

Variants ²

  • A300B1 — Only two were built: the first prototype, and a second aircraft which was leased in November 1974 to Trans European Airways (TEA). TEA instantly subleased the aircraft for six weeks to Air Algérie. It has accommodation for 300 passengers (TEA) or 323 passengers (Air Algérie) with a maximum weight of 132,000 kg and two General Electric CF6-50A engines of 220 kN thrust.
  • A300B2 — The first production version. Powered by General Electric CF6 or Pratt & Whitney JT9D engines (the same engines that powered the Boeing 747-100, "the original jumbo jet") of between 227 and 236 kN thrust, it entered service with Air France in May 1974. The prototype A300B2 made its first flight on 28 June 1973 and was certificated by the French and German authorities on 15 March 1974 and FAA approval followed on 30 May 1974. The first production A300B2 (A300 number 5) made its maiden flight on 15 April 1974 and was handed over to Air France a few weeks later on 10 May 1974. The A300B2 entered revenue service on 23 May 1974 between Paris and London.
    • A300B2-100 — 137 Metric Ton MTOW
    • A300B2-200 — 142 Metric Ton MTOW, with Krüger flaps, first delivery to South African Airways in 1976
    • A300B2-300 — increased Maximum Landing Weight/Maximum Zero Fuel Weight
  • A300B4 — The major production version. Features a center fuel tank for increased fuel capacity (47,500 kg). Production of the B2 and B4 totaled 248. The first A300B4 (the 9th A300) flew on 25 December 1974 and was certificated on 26 March 1975. The first delivery was made to Germanair (which later merged into Hapag Lloyd) on 23 May 1975.
    • A300B4-100 — 157.5 Metric Ton MTOW, first delivery to Germanair in 1975.
    • A300B4-200 — 165 Metric Ton MTOW, first delivery to Hapag-Lloyd Flug in 1980.
    • A300B4-200FF — An A300 with a "forward-facing" crew compartment. The worlD's first 2-crew widebody airliner. Includes some of the A310's and A300-600's digital avionics. First saw service with Garuda Indonesia in 1982, further customers were VASP, Tunisair, Kar-Air/Finnair and MNG Airlines.
    • A300B4-600 — Referred to as the A300-600. See Below.
  • A300C4 — Convertible freighter version, with a large cargo door on the port side. First delivered to South African Airways in October 1982.
  • A300F4-203 — Freighter version of the A300B4-200. First delivery occurred in 1986, but only very few were built as the A300F4-200 was soon replaced by the more capable A300-600F (official designation: A300F4-600).
  • A300-600 — Officially designated A300B4-600, this version is the same length as the B2 and B4 but has increased space because it uses the A310 rear fuselage and tail. It has higher power CF6-80 or Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines and uses the Honeywell 331-250 auxiliary power unit (APU). The A300-600 entered service in 1983 with Saudi Arabian Airlines and a total of 313 A300-600s (all versions) have been sold. The A300-600 also has a similar cockpit to the A310, eliminating the need for a flight engineer. The FAA issues a single type rating which allows operation of both the A310 and A300-600.

  • A300-600 — (Official designation: A300B4-600) The baseline model of the -600 series.
  • A300-620C — (Official designation: A300C4-620) A convertible freighter version. First delivery December 1985.
  • A300-600F — (Official designation: A300F4-600) The freighter version of the baseline -600.
  • A300-600R — (Official designation: A300B4-600R) The increased range -600, achieved by an additional trim fuel tank in the tail. First delivery in 1988 to American Airlines; all A300s built since 1989 (freighters included) are -600Rs. Japan Air System (later merged in Japan Airlines) took delivery of the last new-built passenger A300, an A300-622R, in November 2002.
  • A300-600RF — (Official designation: A300F4-600R) The freighter version of the -600R. All A300s delivered between November 2002 and 12 July 2007 (last ever A300 delivery) were A300-600RFs.
  • A300-600ST — Commonly referred to as the Airbus Beluga or "Airbus Super Transporter," these five airframes are used by Airbus to ferry parts between the company's disparate manufacturing facilities, thus enabling workshare distribution. They replaced the four Aero Spacelines Super Guppys previously used by Airbus.
  • A300B10 (A310) — Introduced a shorter fuselage, a new, higher aspect ratio wing, smaller tail and two crew operation. It is available in standard -200 and the Extended range -300 with 9,600 km (5,965 mi) range in both passenger and full cargo versions. It is also available as a military tanker/transport serving the Canadian Forces and German Air Force. Sales total 260, although five of these (ordered by Iraqi Airways) were never built.

Accidents and Incidents ²

As of 2010, the A300 has been involved in 54 accidents and incidents, including 26 hull-losses and 1,434 fatalities.

  • 27 June 1976: Air France Flight 139, originating in Tel Aviv, Israel and carrying 248 passengers and a crew of 12 took off from Athens, Greece, headed for Paris, France. The flight was hijacked by terrorists, and was eventually flown to Entebbe Airport in Uganda. At the airport, Israeli commandos rescued 102 of the 105 hostages.
  • 18 December 1983: Malaysia Airlines Flight 684, an Airbus A300B4 leased from Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS), registration OY-KAA, crashed short of the runway at Kuala Lumpur in bad weather while attempting to land on a flight from Singapore. All 247 persons aboard escaped unharmed but the aircraft was destroyed in the resulting fire.
  • 3 July 1988: Iran Air Flight 655 was shot down by the “USS Vincennes” in the Persian Gulf after being mistaken for an attacking Iranian F-14 Tomcat, killing all 290 passengers and crew.
  • 28 September 1992: PIA Flight 268 a Pakistan International Airlines A300B4 crashed on approach near Kathmandu, Nepal. All 12 crew and 155 passengers were killed.
  • 26 April 1994: China Airlines Flight 140 crashed at the end of runway at Nagoya, Japan, killing all 15 crew and 249 of 256 passengers on board.
  • 24 December 1994: Air France Flight 8969 was hijacked at Houari Boumedienne Airport in Algiers, by four terrorists who belonged to the Armed Islamic Group. The terrorists apparently intended to crash the plane over the Eiffel Tower on Boxing Day. After a failed attempt to leave Marseille following a confrontational firefight between the terrorists and the GIGN French Special Forces, the result was the death of all four terrorists. (Snipers on the terminal front's roof shot dead two of the terrorists. The other two terrorists died as a result of gunshots in the cabin after approximately 20 minutes.) Three hostages including a Vietnamese diplomat were executed in Algiers, 229 hostages survived, many of them wounded by shrapnel. The almost 15-year-old aircraft was written off.
  • 26 September 1997: Garuda Indonesia Flight 152 crashed while landing at Medan, Indonesia killing 234 aboard.
  • 16 February 1998: China Airlines Flight 676 (Taiwan) crashed into residential area close to CKS international airport near Taipei, Taiwan. All 196 people on board were killed, including Taiwan's central bank president. Seven people on the ground were also killed.
  • 24 December 1999: Indian Airlines Flight IC 814 from Kathmandu, Nepal to New Delhi was hijacked to Kandahar, Afghanistan. 1 fatality.
  • 12 November 2001: American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into the Belle Harbor neighborhood of Queens, NY shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport. All 260 people on board were killed, along with 5 people on the ground.
  • 22 November 2003: European Air Transport OO-DLL, operating on behalf of DHL Aviation, was hit by an SA-14 'Gremlin' missile after takeoff from Baghdad International Airport. The airplane lost hydraulic pressure and thus the controls. After extending the landing gear to create more drag, the crew piloted the plane using differences in engine thrust and landed the plane with minimal further damage. The plane was repaired and offered for sale.
  • 1 March 2004: PIA Flight 2002, an Airbus A300B4-200 burst 2 tires whilst taking off from King Abdulaziz International Airport. Fragments of the tire were ingested by the engines, this caused the engines to catch fire and an aborted takeoff was performed. Due to the fire substantial damage to the engine and the left wing caused the aircraft to be written off. All 261 passengers and 12 crew survived.
  • 14 April 2010: Aerounion Flight 302, an A300B4-203F, crashed on a road 2 km short of the runway while attempting to land at Monterrey airport, Mexico. Seven people killed (5 crew, 2 on the ground).
  • 25 August 2011: A300B4-620 5A-IAY of Afriqiyah Airways and A300B4-622 5A-DLZ of Libyan Arab Airlines were both destroyed in fighting between pro- and anti-Gadaffi forces at Tripoli International Airport.
  • 16 November 2012: An Airbus A300 DHL cargo plane crash landed on its nose at 5:25 am at Bratislava airport M. R. S. (BTS) (Slovakia) after its front undercarriage failed. It was a regular morning flight from Germany to Bratislava. Until the incident happened there apparently weren't any problems reported during the flight. The crew consisting of three people weren't injured and no larger visible damage was caused.

Aircraft Preserved ²

Only two A300s are preserved today.

  • ex-HL7219 Korean Air Lines Airbus A300B4 preserved at Korean Air Cheju Museum
  • ex-N11984 Continental Air Lines Airbus A300B4 preserved at South Korea as a Night Flight Restaurant

Specifications and Performance Data (Airbus A300 Family) ²

Airbus A300 Family Specifications
Typical capacity 220 passengers (three-class)
266 passengers (two-class)
375 passengers (one-class)
N/A (cargo)
Cargo capacity+ 22/23 LD3 containers in the lower cargo compartment15 (21) pallets on the main deck + 22/23 LD3 containers
Overall length54.08 m (177.4 ft)
Wingspan44.85 m (147.1 ft)
Wing area260 m² (2,800 ft²)
Overall height16.62 m (54.5 ft)
Max cabin width5.28 m (17.3 ft)
Fuselage diameter5.64 m (18.5 ft)
Operating empty weight typical88,500 kg (195,000 lb) 90,900 kg (200,000 lb)81,900 kg (181,000 lb)
MTOW165,000 kg (360,000 lb)171,700 kg (379,000 lb)170,500 kg (376,000 lb)
Takeoff field length (MTOW, SL, ISA)N/A2,324 m (7,625 ft)
Cruising speedMach 0.78 (833 km/h, 518 mph, 450 knots at 35,000 ft)
Maximum speedMach 0.86Mach 0.82 (876 km/h, 544 mph, 473 knots at 35,000 ft)
Range fully loaded6,670 km (3,600 nmi) 7,540 km (4,070 nmi)4,850 km (2,620 nmi)
Maximum fuel capacity62,900 L (16,600 US gal)68,150 L (18,000 US gal)
EnginesCF6-50C2 or
CF6-80C2 or PW4158
Cockpit crewThreeTwo


Airbus A300 Family Engines
A300B2-1A1974General Electric CF6-50A
A300B2-1C1975General Electric CF6-50C
A300B2K-3C1976General Electric CF6-50CR
A300B4-2C1976General Electric CF6-50C
A300B4-1031979General Electric CF6-50C2
A300B4-1201979Pratt & Whitney JT9D-59A
A300B2-2031980General Electric CF6-50C2
A300B4-2031981General Electric CF6-50C2
A300B4-2201981Pratt & Whitney JT9D-59A
A300B4-6011988General Electric CF6-80C2A1
A300B4-6031988General Electric CF6-80C2A3
A300B4-6201983Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7R4H1
A300B4-6222003Pratt & Whitney PW4158
A300B4-605R1988General Electric CF6-80C2A5
A300B4-622R1991Pratt & Whitney PW4158
A300F4-605R1994General Electric CF6-80C2A5 or 2A5F
A300F4-622R2000Pratt & Whitney PW4158
A300C4-605R2002General Electric CF6-80C2A5


  1. Shupek, John. “Airbus A300 Series,” The Skytamer Archive, Copyright © 2007 Skytamer Images. All Rights Reserved
  2. Wikipedia. Airbus A300

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