The Airbus A310 is a medium- to long-range twin-engine widebody jet airliner. Launched in July 1978, it was the second aircraft created by Airbus, the consortium of European aerospace companies, which is now owned by EADS. The A310 is a shortened derivative of the A300, the first twin-engined widebody airliner.
The A310 (along with the A300) officially ceased production in July 2007 although the last delivery was in June 1998. As of August 2010, 255 A310s have been delivered, 208 of which are still in operation.
In 1977 Lufthansa, Swissair and Continental were said to be seriously considering the A300B10 proposal (then made by Airbus in June 1975), and in April 1978 it was announced that Eastern had placed options on 25 of the aircraft, although these were never converted into firm orders for the type. The increasingly strong interest in the aircraft, coupled with the recovery of the industry in the late 1970s, led Airbus to launching the A300B10, now known as the A310, into production on July 7, 1978 on the back of commitments from Swissair, Lufthansa, and Air France for 35 aircraft announced on July 6, 1978.
Initially, two versions of the A310 were planned, namely the regional A310-100 and the transcontinental A310-200. The A310-100 had a range of 2,000 nautical miles (3,700 km) with 200 passengers, whilst the -200 had a higher MTOW and centre section fuel, and could carry the same load a further 1,000 nautical miles (1,900 km). Basic engines offered included the General Electric CF6-45B2 and Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7R4 with the Rolls-Royce RB211-524B4 and the CF6-6 regarded as alternatives.
The initial commitments were converted into firm orders during 1979 and, with orders and options from four other airlines, the A310 order book stood at 58 by the end of 1979 with option on further 59.
Swissair was the first airline to place a firm order for the type, announcing that it was to acquire ten with a further ten under option on March 15, 1979 to replace McDonnell Douglas DC-9 series 30s on its major intra-European routes, but it was quickly followed by Lufthansa and KLM who together placed orders and options for a total of 70. Other airlines announcing orders for the A310 during 1979 included Martinair, Sabena, Air France, and Air Afrique.
Sales of the A310 continued and by the time the development A310-200 aircraft made its first flight on April 3, 1982, orders and options for 181 aircraft had been placed by 15 airlines worldwide, a somewhat better start than that of the original A300. It was clear that the longer-range series -200 aircraft was the more popular aircraft and Airbus decided in 1979 to stop offering the low gross weight series A310-100 (originally proposed for Lufthansa), none of which were built.
The range of the A310 exceeds that of the A300-series with the exception of the A300-600, which surpasses the A310-200. The ability of the A310 to go farther than earlier Airbus designs has led to the aircraft being used extensively on transatlantic routes. The A300 and A310 introduced the concept of commonality: A300-600 and A310 pilots can qualify for the other aircraft with one day of training.
Demand for the aircraft started to slow down and there were no new A310 passenger orders during the late 1990s. The A310 (along with the A300) ceased production in July 2007, though five orders from Iraqi Airways remained on the books until July 2008. The remaining freighter sales are to be fulfilled by the new A330-200F derivative.
The A310 was marketed as an introduction to widebody operations for developing airlines. The A310 was replaced in Airbus' lineup by the highly successful A330-200, which shares its fuselage cross-section. Between 1983 and the very last aircraft produced in 1998, 255 A310s were delivered by Airbus.
The A300 and A310 established Airbus as a competitor to Boeing and allowed it to go ahead with the more ambitious A320 and A330/A340 families.
Cruise speed: 860 km/h
Total range: 9 600 km
Engines: 2×PWJT9D-7R4 or CF6-80C2A2
Wingspan: 43.89 m
Length: 46.66 m
Height: 15.80 m
Passengers: up to 280