Airbus’ success story comes from a time of slow growth, patience, and a variety of aircraft that were capable of changing the way that we see the air travel industry. The company emerged as an aircraft manufacturer where they started off competing in the dynamic twin-engine market.

Where It All Began

                                       


It all kick-started in 1969 when Airbus announced the Airbus A300B, their first aircraft. This aircraft was to directly compete with the Boeing 727, McDonnell Douglas DC-10, and the Tri-Star. This aircraft was significant in this market as it was only a twin-engined aircraft competing in a tri-engine market. The selling point to the Airbus A300B was an extra inch in terms of seat width. The conventional seats onboard commercial aircraft at the time were 17 inches. The first flight was on October 28th, 1972 which later converted into the first delivery for Air France. From 1969, the famous convoy that is now used to transport Airbus A380 parts was born. Ironically, at the beginning of production, Airbus used a converted Boeing Stratocruiser. By 1977, the Airbus A300B was given an ICAO ETOPS rating of 90 minutes. By 1982, the Airbus A300B4-200FF (Forward-Facing Crew Cockpit) was built, which removed the third crew member from the cockpit. This made the A300B the world’s first two-crew widebody aircraft in the world.

During the same year that the FF variant of the A300B was built, the Airbus A310 became the first step in building a family of aircraft. Today, these aircraft are still used but as freighter variants. The Airbus A310 pioneered new technology with a glass cockpit, a primarily composite-based structure, electrically signalled slats and flaps, followed by auto wind-shear protection, which was a first for aircraft technology in the 80s. The A310 also featured the first wing-tip device on a commercial aircraft. Additionally, the A310 integrated the same technology as the A300 so that pilots with an A300 type rating could also fly the A310.


The Emergence of Single-Aisle Aircraft

Two years later, the Airbus A320 was the first transition for Airbus from widebody to single-aisle aircraft. It was launched in 1984 with deliveries beginning in 1988. The A320 also advertised the 18″ wide seats that was on the A300 and A310 as well as containerized cargo and baggage, meaning more secured baggage being underneath the aircraft with minimal movement. The A320 was also the first aircraft to use the side-stick controls and fly-by-wire systems, which ensured extra safety when flying. The fly-by-wire systems enabled Airbus to create Flight Domain Protection, which allows more adaptation to flight with the use of computer systems as well as being able to set stall and speed limits, structural protection, G-load protection, and improved safety in extreme situations. Furthermore, the A320 also was the first airliner to use significant amounts of composites in its primary structure, much more than the A300 and the A310. In 1987, during production and testing, the very first carbon brakes were added to the A320 which meant fewer components were needed with there being longer durability on the landing gear. During the past two to three decades, demand for the A320 has been so popular that on average an A320 lands or departs every two seconds.


The New Engine Option

Recently announced over the past few years was the expansion of success on the original Airbus A320 program. This time, Airbus is progressing the program with the NEO (New Engine Option) edition of the A320 and A321 aircraft. The NEO family offers 95% airframe which spares commonality against the previous generations of Airbus A320 aircraft as well as lower operating costs with potential for revenue expansions in result of cost reductions. The neo also offers slim-lined seats, Space-Flex (a new rear galley configuration), Smart-Lav (new lavatory system), and a new door rating which increases the exit limit. This is also present in the A321neo with the new Airbus Cabin-Flex system for a new door configuration. The A321LR (Long Range) which will compete with the Boeing 757 and much of the long-haul market will be able to travel up to 4,000nm at a time without having to refuel, thus potentially growing the low cost transatlantic market. It would even be able to connect much of Southern Europe with South America, which would be beneficial to carriers such as TAP Portugal and LAN Airlines. In terms of strategy for the A320, they want to “make the best better” with non-stop innovation built on proven values that focus on an airline’s profitability levels.

                                

It doesn’t stop there for Airbus. They also want to expand on the long success of the A330 program.

The company will develop the Airbus A330-900neo which will offer 14% lower fuel burn per seat. It will also follow the same cabin as the A350XWB with the Airspace cabin design.

Airbus also released the Airbus A330R (regional) model which has become a hit with carriers such as Saudi Arabian Airlines as well as releasing the 242 ton version to airlines such as Delta. To accommodate these needs, the current Airbus Belugas will be accommodated with the new Beluga XL from 2019 onwards to deliver bigger parts for the A350 and other current programs on the production line.