It was a bit more than fifty years ago – on May 29, 1969 – that the then-French Minister of Transport and German Minister of Economy Affairs signed an agreement to jointly develop the Airbus A300, thus giving life to what has become one of the two largest aircraft manufacturers in the world.
Airbus celebrated this important anniversary in style – with an amazing formation flight of five of its aircraft types (A319neo, A220, A330neo, A350-1000, A380-800, and Beluga XL) together with Patrouille de France – the aerobatic unit of the Franch Air Force.
— Airbus (@Airbus) May 30, 2019
While I, obviously, have nothing that is anywhere near as impressive as the above video, I decided to use this occasion to look briefly at the history of each of the airliners that the European manufacturing giant has (or used to have) in its portfolio as well as share my favorite photo of each of the type.
In the first part, we will look at the original A300, the A310, the A320 series, and the A340. The remaining aircraft types will follow in part two.
Airbus A300 & A310
The Airbus A300 was not only Airbus’ first creation, but it was also the first twin-engine wide-body airliner. It flew for the first time on October 28, 1972, and the first A300 to enter into service was delivered to the type’s launch customer – Air France – on May 10, 1974. The smaller A310 initially started its life as a variant of the A300 – A300B10. The first A310 took off for the first time on April 3, 1982, and it first entered into Swissair about two years later.
In total, 878 of the A300s and the less-popular A310s were delivered to airlines around the world. While the A310 was only produced between 1983 and 1998, the A300’s production continued into this century – stopping in 2007.
Currently, a little less than 200 A300s remain in service. Most of those are freighters, and more than half of them are operated by FedEx and UPS. Iranian airlines including Iran Air and Mahan Air are more or less the only remaining operators of the passenger version of the type.
While less than 30 A310s remain in service, they are easier to fly on since most of them are in passenger configuration. Among other airlines, the A310 can still be flown on some Air Transat (Canada) and Mahan Air (Iran) flights.
My Favorite A300 & A310 Photo
EP-MNN / Mahan Air / Airbus A310-300 / Tehran Mehrabad Airport, Iran / February 2016
I took the photo above in Tehran during the first of the two Iranian Skies & Cities tours, and it shows part of the busy ramp of Mehrabad airport during sunrise. Besides the A310 in the foreground being prepared for its first flight of the day, there is also another one in the background ready to enter the runway and take off.
The A300 & A310 and I
I flew on the Airbus A310 for the first time in 2015 on an Iran Air flight from Tehran to Vienna, and since then had a chance to fly on it once more. In fact, I could even say twice more since the second time I flew on the A310 – from Tokyo to Beijing with Pakistan International Airlines – my flight diverted to Tianjin before continuing on to Beijing.
Being in the cockpit while the decision whether or not we should divert was being made was one of my most interesting aviation experiences to date (you can read my report here).
I flew on the A300 three times. All of those were domestic flights that I took during the two aviation tours to Iran that I organized in 2016. I flew on the older A300B2 once – with Iran Air – and the newer A300-600 twice – with Mahan Air.
Airbus A300 & A310 Flight Reviews on KN Aviation
- Mahan Air A300-600 Economy Class from Tehran to Mashad
- Mahan Air A300-600 Economy Class & Iran Air A300B2 from Tehran to Mashad and Back
- Pakistan International Airlines A310-300 Economy Class from Tokyo to Beijing
Airbus A320 Series
The A320’s origins can be traced back to the early 1970s when Airbus started to consider designing a narrow-body jet to compete with the 737 and DC-9. This was later, in 1977, formalized into the Joint European Transport (JET) program.
Initially, the aircraft was worked on under SA1 (Single-Aisle 1), SA2, and SA3 designations referring to three variations with different capacities. Later, it was transferred to Airbus where it turned into the A320 program in 1981. The A320 took off for the first time six years later, on February 22, 1987, and it entered into service with Air France about a year later, in April 1988.
Since then, the original design has gone through various improvements including getting wingtip fences (and later “Sharklets”). The aircraft has also been stretched into the A321, and shrunk twice into the A319 and A318. In 2010, Airbus launched the re-engined A320neo family which will help keep the A320 series in the air for decades to come.
With more than 8,000 A320ceo and almost 800 A320neo family airframes in service, it is the second most popular airliner series after the Boeing 737.
My Favorite A320 Series Photo
JA22MC / StarFlyer / Airbus A320-200 / Tokyo Haneda Airport, Japan / December 2014
With A320 series being some of the most common aircraft types that can be seen at airports around the world – and thus forming large part of my photo collection – it was difficult to choose just one favorite photos. However, in the end, I chose the photo above as I think the moonlit Tokyo Bay nicely complements the black StarFlyer livery.
The A320 Series and I
Having logged more than 100 flights on A320 series aircraft between 2006 (when I started keeping track) and now, I flew on the Airbus narrow-body jets more than on any other family of aircraft including the 737.
I flew on all of the “ceo” family members – A318, A319, A320, and A321 – but I only flew on the A321neo from the newer A320 family. That’s not an issue though considering that the “neos” will be around for decades to come.
Perhaps my most memorable flight on this family of aircraft was a Niki flight from Vienna to Frankfurt that I took back in 2007. When boarding the A320, I could catch a glance of Niki Lauda’s iconic red cap through the cockpit window – and sure enough, the captain’s welcome started with the words “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain, Niki Lauda, speaking…”
Other A320 series flights that stand out in my memory include a flight from Tehran to Isfahan on an Iran Air A320 that was formerly operated by ANA and still had many reminders of the former operator (including Japanese signs, etc.) onboard as well as a pair of inaugural flights – AirAsia Japan’s first flight ever and Jetstar Japan’s first flight to Shimojishima.
Airbus A320 Series Flight Reviews on KN Aviation
- Aeroflot A321 Economy Class from Moscow to Vienna
- AirAsia Japan Inaugural Flight, A320 from Nagoya to Sapporo
- Air France A320 Economy Class from Budapest to Paris
- Air India A320neo Economy Class from Delhi to Mumbai
- Austrian Airlines A320 Economy Class from Vienna to Paris
- British Airways A320 Economy Class from Vienna to London
- Brussels Airlines A320 Economy Class from Berlin to Brussels
- Cathay Dragon A320 Economy Class from Hong Kong to Hanoi
- easyJet A319 Economy Class from Milan to Barcelona
- Finnair A321 Economy Class from Budapest to Helsinki
- HK Express A321 U-Biz from Hong Kong to Tokyo
- Hong Kong Airlines A320 Economy Class from Hong Kong to Tokyo
- Iberia A320 Economy Class from Vienna to Madrid
- Indonesia AirAsia A320 Economy Class from Jakarta to Yogyakarta
- Jetstar Japan A320 Economy Class from Tokyo to Sapporo
- Lufthansa A321 Economy Class from Paris to Frankfurt
- Starflyer A320 Economy Class from Osaka to Tokyo
Airbus’ first quad – the A340 – was developed alongside the twin A330 which I’ll talk more about in the second part of this article series. The original two variants of the A340 – the standard A340-300 and the slightly shorter A340-200 – share fuselage and wing with the A330.
The very first A340 to be delivered to an airline was an A340-200 delivered to Lufthansa. That delivery, as well as the first delivery of the A340-300 (which also happened to be the 1000th Airbus aircraft) took place in early 1993. Later on, Airbus also introduced stretched versions of the type – the A340-500 and the A340-600.
Unlike the two-engine A330 which is still in production, the last – 380th – A340 was built in 2011. While airlines have been replacing the A340s with more fuel efficient aircraft recently, the type – except for the A340-200 and A340-500 variants – can still be flown easily on scheduled routes.
Currently, Lufthansa, Iberia, South African Airways, Mahan Air, and Scandinavian Airlines are the largest operators of the type. While Iberia only operates the A340-600 and Scandinavian Airlines only operates the A340-300, Lufthansa and Mahan Air operate both the A340-300 and A340-600.
My Favorite A340 Photo
9V-SGC / Singapore Airlines / Airbus A340-500 / Los Angeles Airport, United States / May 2008
The photo above was taken during my first ever visit to the United States more than a decade ago, and it shows the now-retired Singapore Airlines A340-500 arriving after its ultra-long-haul flight from Singapore. Combine that with the fact that the photo was taken while having an In-n-Out burger, and you can see that choosing my favorite A340 photo was fairly easy.
The A340 and I
While I My flight log only contains 14 A340 flights with the first one on record being a LAN Chile flight from Frankfurt to Madrid in 2007. Given that it was also my first fifth freedom flight, it is one of my most memorable A340 flights.
Since then, I have been fortunate to have flown on all of the A340 variants. I flew on the A340-200 with Egypt Air, the A340-300 with Iran Aseman Airlines, LAN Chile, Lufthansa, and Swiss, the A340-500 with Emirates and Etihad Airways, and the A340-600 with Lufthansa. Before I started recording my flights, I also flew on an Austrian Airlines A340 from Vienna to Tokyo and back.
That said, I haven’t taken a flight on the type since the end of 2016, and so it’s about the time to start thinking about booking a flight on this Airbus quad before it disappears from the skies!