In 1967 the Airbus Industrie consortium of aircraft manufacturers in Great Britain, France, Spain, and (then) the Federal Republic of Germany was formed to produce a new wide-bodied twinjet for short to medium range routes. The first product, the A300, first flew on 28 October 1972. After a slow start, the A300 went on to great success, thanks in no small part to the excellent reputation the type garnered with the airlines that flew it. A300s have been surpassed by more advanced types (many of which were produced by Airbus Industrie) but many fly on in both passenger and cargo roles worldwide. In the United States, the leading operators of the type were Eastern, Continental, and Pan Am (old and new!); they also served with Capitol Airlines, Carnival Airlines, and Northeastern.
A300 variants included:
A300B1: These were the two prototype aircraft,
slightly shorter than the follow-on production aircraft at 167 ft. 2 in.
Trans European Airways leased one in the 1970s.
A300B2: Short range version; first to be produced with the definitive fuselage length of 175 ft., 11 in.
A300B4: Medium range model, employing leading edge Krueger flaps for improved takeoff performance.
A300B2K: Hot and high type using the B4 wing with the B2 short range structure.
A300C4: Convertible cargo/passenger type.
The follow-on version to the A300B4 was the A300-600, featuring advanced avionics, winglets, and a slightly stretched and deepened fuselage. These fly in the United States with American Airlines and Federal Express.
Finally, there is the new A300-600ST Super
Transporter (aka "Beluga"). This is a heavily modified A300-600 airframe
with a Super Guppy-like fuselage. These were built primarily for
Airbus Industrie's use in transporting large components from their partners'
manufacturing facilities to the final assembly facility in Toulouse, France.
The A310 was first envisioned as the A300B10, a shortened A300 for lower density routes. Although resembling the A300 superficially the A310 featured an entirely new wing designed by British Aerospace. First flight of the A310 was on 3 April 1982. Like its longer sibling the A310 has been replaced in many major airlines' fleets but the type continues to serve worldwide. Pan Am was the only U.S. carrier to order the A310, but Federal Express bought second-hand aircraft later for freighter conversions.
A310 variants included:
A310-200: Medium-haul variant without winglets.
A310-300: Long range variant with winglets.