Airbus celebrates the 40th anniversary of its first aircraft programme

Tomorrow Airbus celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Franco-German agreement which launched its first ever aircraft programme, the A300. On May 29, 1969, the French Minister of Transport, Jean Chamant and the German Minister of Economic Affairs, Karl Schiller, signed an agreement for the joint-development of the A300 aircraft, a first European twin-aisle twin-engine jet for medium-haul air travel. This historic event took place during the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget.

The launch of the A300 programme marked the first milestone in Airbus’ successful history and set the foundation of its today’s vision and strategy. Tom Enders, Airbus President and CEO reminds: “40 years ago – in May 1969 - the commercial jet aircraft market was entirely dominated by the US industry. Giving the go-ahead for the A300 was a bold strategic decision. The pioneering spirit of our engineers as well as Airbus’ continuous strive for innovation and international cooperation have made us a global market leader and at the same time a symbol for successful European cooperation. «New standards. Together» - this is our guiding principle and from now on our new tagline that will keep us ahead”.

The A300 revolutionized the civil aviation sector. Dubbed “the profit machine” the A300 was the first twin-aisle twin-engine short/medium haul aircraft, which offered for the first time all the amenities and assets of long range aircraft such as a wide-body comfort, low noise levels, low fuel consumption and low operating costs. Based on the successful idea, Airbus developed its first family of aircraft, the A300/A310 and their respective freighter derivatives. The A300/A310 Family set completely new standards that were adopted on all modern civil aircraft later on.

In total, Airbus had built 822 A300/A310 Family aircraft, while the original business case only foresaw 300 aircraft to be built. The A300 was delivered to over 80 customers. Over the years, these aircraft have flown more than 30 million flight-hours and have taken off more than 15 million times. Today, more than 620 aircraft are still in operation.

The A300 programme was also the starting point of a successful European cooperation. From the beginning the work share was divided: The wings were produced in the UK, the fuselage in Germany and the cockpit in France. The Final Assembly Line was built in Toulouse, France. Eighteen months later, on December 18, 1970, Airbus Industrie was created as Grouping of Economic Interest under French law (GIE, Groupement d’intérêt Economique) gathering the European industrial partners of the programme SNIAS (Société nationale industrielle aérospatiale), Deutsche Airbus, Hawker-Siddeley and VFW-Fokker. Over the years, additional manufacturers joined the consortium, the Spanish CASA in December 1971 and British Aerospace in January 1979.

Airbus today is a leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive family of airliners on the market, ranging in capacity from 100 to more than 500 seats. Airbus has delivered more than 5,600 aircraft to some 400 customers and operators worldwide and boasts a healthy backlog of around 3,500 aircraft for delivery over the coming years. Airbus is a global company with design and manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, the UK and Spain as well as subsidiaries in the U.S., China, Japan and in the Middle East. Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus is an EADS company.

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