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Airbus S.A.S is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of commercial aircraft. You will see its aircraft used by many airline companies and plenty of pilots completing their type rating to fly the latest Airbus models. However, the success of this European aircraft manufacturer didn’t happen overnight. It took years of innovation and overcoming challenges to make Airbus the renowned aerospace corporation we know today.

If you want to learn more about the interesting history of Airbus, read on.

The Founding of Airbus

Before Airbus was founded, American aerospace companies like the Boeing Company, Lockheed Corporation, and McDonnell Douglas were the main players in the industry. Even if European aircraft were considered high quality and well-designed, manufacturers found it difficult to compete with USA-made planes. As a way to enter the competitive market, Airbus was formed in 1970 through a consortium of French and German aerospace corporations. Later on, they were joined by Spanish and British firms. Together, they created a market niche for short to medium-range, high-capacity jets.

The Airbus’s First Flight with the A300

Even before Airbus was founded, there have been discussions about French, British, and German companies forming an association to build better aircraft. This led to the production of Airbus’s first product, the A300. To ensure that the A300 had that competitive edge to penetrate the aviation industry, a driving force behind the A300 program, Roger Béteille, insisted on using a high-level technology in the A300. His effort soon paid off in 1972 as the first flight of the A300 took place and lasted for an hour and 23 minutes.

Despite the successful maiden flight, Airbus faced the challenge of convincing airlines that it has designed the most economical and innovative wide-body jetliner. To solve this problem, Airbus embarked on a six-week odyssey across the Americas to show off its newest aircraft to pilots and airline executives. And this tour proved to be very effective, with Eastern Airlines ordering 23 more A300s within six months after it received four aircraft of the same model for a trial run. Eventually, more orders for the aircraft started coming from all over the world. Global airlines like Lufthansa, Korean Air, Thai Airways, and South African Airways were some of Airbus’s first customers.

The Birth of the Airbus Family and Success

With the success of the A300, Airbus continued to design and produce better models like the A310, which also marked the start of a new line of Airbus aircraft models. The A310 is lighter and more fuel efficient—defining features that helped attract new customers. However, it wasn’t until the arrival of the A320 that Airbus became a global name in the aerospace industry. Featuring a single-aisle, Airbus’s newly designed aircraft had more than 400 orders thanks to its key advantage, the fly-by-wire technology. It helped improve flight controls and reduce the plane’s weight. Also, the A320 provided a wider cabin, allowing airline companies to install more spacious seats with a wider aisle. The innovative technology and considerable adjustments drew more customers to order the A320.

Soon after, Airbus launched the A321, a stretched version of the aircraft. In 1993, Airbus added two smaller versions, the A318, and the A319. This also completed the A320 family and established the company’s success. Since its launch in 1987, the A320 family has become the best-selling jet globally, with more than 14,000 airplanes ordered.

Airbus Goes Big

After much success and some challenges, Airbus finally said yes to going big with the A380. In 2000, Airbus launched the double-decker, A380, which is also the world’s largest commercial airliner. The company designed it to be a game changer and pave the way to luxury air travel with its spacious lounge and aisles for passenger comfort.

The End of the A380

Aside from Singapore Airlines which acquired A380 planes to be part of its fleet, Airbus soon found orders for the model quite hard to come by. With less than 300 planes sold since the launch of the A380, Airbus realized the future of superjumbo jets isn’t so bright. It also failed to finalize a crucial order from Emirates that was initially announced in 2018. The next year, Airbus announced that it would stop production of its flagship A380 model by 2021.

Airbus’s Continuous Growth

Although Airbus didn’t get the success it hoped with the A380, the company continued to manufacture more innovative and fuel-efficient planes. Relying on its commitment to quality and excellence, Airbus has become one of the major players in the aviation industry and continues to see many of its models in the service of different airline companies around the world.

The A320neo and the A220, for example, headline Airbus’s narrowbody line of aircraft. For its widebody fleet, the A350XWB and A330neo will occupy the skies.

Airbus’s 50th Year in the Sky

Last May 29, 2019, Airbus celebrated its 50th anniversary. And in the 2019 Paris Air Show, Airbus officially launched the extra-long range, single-aisle A321XLR. Since then, the model is getting a strong base of orders from customers all over the world.

The Future Awaits

Initially, Airbus’s goal was to showcase European ingenuity and dedication to quality. Because of this, the company strived to overcome challenges, continue to improve its technology, and design better aircraft. With the growing aviation industry and other competitive aircraft manufacturers, only time will tell the kind of future Airbus will have.