An A310, landing gear and flaps extended, from Air Transat, formerly one of its largest operators
Role Wide-body aircraft
National origin Multinational[a]
Manufacturer Airbus
First flight 3 April 1982; 42 years ago (1982-04-03)
Introduction April 1983 with Swissair
Status In limited service
Primary users Mahan Air
ULS Airlines Cargo
Iran Air
Ariana Afghan Airlines
Produced 1981–1998
Number built 255[1]
Developed from Airbus A300
Variants Airbus A310 MRTT
Airbus CC-150 Polaris

The Airbus A310 is a wide-body aircraft, designed and manufactured by Airbus Industrie, then a consortium of European aerospace manufacturers. Airbus had identified a demand for an aircraft smaller than the A300, the first twin-jet wide-body. On 7 July 1978, the A310 (initially the A300B10) was launched with orders from Swissair and Lufthansa. On 3 April 1982, the first prototype conducted its maiden flight, and the A310 received its type certificate on 11 March 1983.

Keeping the same eight-abreast cross-section, the A310 is 6.95 m (22.8 ft) shorter than the initial A300 variants, and has a smaller wing, down from 260 to 219 m2 (2,800 to 2,360 sq ft). The A310 introduced a two-crew glass cockpit, later adopted for the A300-600 with a common type rating. It was powered by the same General Electric CF6-80 or Pratt & Whitney JT9D then PW4000 turbofan jet engines. It can seat 220 passengers in two classes, or 240 in all-economy, and has a flying range up to 5,150 nautical miles (9,540 km; 5,930 mi). It has overwing exits between the two main front and rear door pairs.

In April 1983, the aircraft entered revenue service with Swissair, and competed with the Boeing 767-200, introduced six months before. Its longer range and ETOPS regulations allowed it to be operated on transatlantic flights. Until the last delivery in June 1998, 255 aircraft were produced, as it was succeeded by the larger Airbus A330-200. It was available as a cargo aircraft version, and was also developed into a military variant, the A310 MRTT multi-role transport, then tanker.



The A310 (background) is a shrunken version of the Airbus A300 (foreground)

On 26 September 1967, the British, French, and West German governments signed a memorandum of understanding to commence the joint development of the 300-seat Airbus A300.[2][3][4] This collaborative effort resulted in the production of the consortium's first airliner, known as the Airbus A300. The A300 was a wide-body medium-to-long range passenger airliner; it holds the distinction of being the first twin-engine wide-body aircraft in the world.[5][6][7][8] The design was relatively revolutionary for its time, and featured a number of industry firsts, making the first use of composite materials on a commercial aircraft; during 1977, the A300 became the first ETOPS-compliant aircraft, which was made possible due to its high performance and safety standards.[9] The A300 would be produced in a range of models, and sold relatively well to airlines across the world, eventually reaching a total of 816 delivered aircraft during its production life.[10]

During the development of the earlier A300, a range of different aircraft size and capacity were studied by the consortium; the resulting Airbus A300B proposal was one of the smaller options. When the A300B1 prototypes emerged, a number of airlines issued requests for an aircraft with greater capacity, which resulted in the initial production A300B2 version. As the A300 entered service, it became increasingly apparent that there was also a sizeable market for a smaller aircraft; some operators did not have enough traffic to justify the relatively large A300, while others wanted more frequency or lower aircraft-distance costs at the expense of higher seat-distance cost (specifically Swissair and Lufthansa). At the same time, there was great pressure for Airbus to validate itself beyond the design and manufacture of a single airliner. In response to these desires, Airbus explored the options for producing a smaller derivative of the A300B2.[11]

Design effort

"We showed the world we were not sitting on a nine-day wonder, and that we wanted to realise a family of planes… we won over customers we wouldn't otherwise have won… now we had two planes that had a great deal in common as far as systems and cockpits were concerned."

Jean Roeder, chief engineer of Airbus, speaking of the A310.[7]

In order to minimise the associated research and development costs for the tentative project, Airbus chose to examine several early design studies performed during the A300 programme. The company ultimately chose to prioritise its focus on one option, which became known as the A300B10MC (standing for Minimum Change). As envisioned, the airliner's capacity was reduced to a maximum of 220 passengers, which was viewed at the time as being a desired capacity amongst many airlines. However, such a design would have resulted in a relatively small fuselage being mated to a comparatively large wing and oversized undercarriage; such an arrangement would have, amongst other things, made the aircraft consume an unnecessarily larger amount of fuel as it carried heavier weight than what was otherwise required.[12]

Another problem for the programme was presented in the form of inflation, the rate of which in the United Kingdom (one of the early members of the Airbus consortium) was around 35 per cent during 1979–80. This factor was responsible for significantly raising the program's development costs and, as a knock-on effect, increase the per-unit cost of the resulting airliner.[12] During the development of the A300, British manufacturer Hawker Siddeley Aviation (HSA) had been appointed as the subcontractor to perform the manufacturing of the wing of the aircraft; shortly afterwards, the British government chose to withdraw from the newly formed venture during 1969. During 1977, HSA subsequently merged with three other British aircraft companies, resulting in the formation of British Aerospace (BAe). By this point in time, the British government had publicly indicated its intentions to rejoin the Airbus programme. During May 1976, the French government entered into a series of discussions on cooperation, during which its representatives stated that the placing of an order by British Airways (BA) was a condition for the re-admission of the United Kingdom into Airbus Industrie as a full partner.[13]

However, both BA and Rolls-Royce had not relinquished their will to collaborate with the Americans in future aircraft endeavours and, in BA's case, procure American aircraft. During the late 1970s, BA sought to purchase two separate types of aircraft in development by American company Boeing, initially known as the 7N7 and 7X7, which would develop into the 757 and 767, the latter of which being an intended rival to the upcoming A310, as well as the existing Boeing 747. Independent of the British government, BAe commenced its own dialogue between itself and American aircraft manufacturers Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, for the purpose of assessing if BAe could participate in any of their future programmes, although the company's chairman, Lord Beswick, publicly stated that the overall aim of the firm was to pursue collaboration in Europe.[13] At the 1978 Farnborough Air Show, Eric Varley, the British Secretary of State for Industry, announced that BAe was to rejoin Airbus Industrie and participate as a full partner from 1 January 1979 onwards. Under the negotiated arrangement, BAe would be allocated a 20 per cent shareholding in Airbus Industrie, and would perform "a full part in the development and manufacturing of the A310".[14]

From late 1977, prior to the Varley announcement, BAe had already commenced work on the design of the new wing at its facility in Hatfield. However, due to negotiations with Britain on its return to the Airbus consortium being protracted, alternative options were explored, including potentially manufacturing the wing elsewhere.[7] At the same time as the British efforts, French aerospace firm Aérospatiale, German aircraft manufacturer Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB), and Dutch-German joint venture company VFW-Fokker were also conducting their individual studies into possible options for the wing of the prospective airliner.[citation needed]

Programme launch

The A310-200 prototype, featuring the liveries of Swissair (left) and Lufthansa (right), the first customers.[14]

At the April 1978 Hanover Air Show, Airbus exhibited a model of the proposed A310. Its wing area, at 219.25 m2 (2,360.0 sq ft) was slightly larger than that studied, at 209 m2 (2,250 sq ft); its passenger cabin was twelve frames shorter than the A300,[b] accommodating typical passenger loads of 195 in two-class, or 245 in all-economy.[14] However, during the next twelve months, almost every aspect was further refined. On 9 June 1978, Swissair and Lufthansa developed a joint specification for the aircraft, and within a month, announced that they would place the launch orders. On 15 March, Swissair became the first airline to place a firm order for the type, announcing that it would acquire ten aircraft, with a further ten under option, to replace its McDonnell Douglas DC-9s on its major intra-European routes. Lufthansa was quick to place a $240 million ten-aircraft order; additional orders from French operator Air France and Spanish airline Iberia shortly followed.[14]

Increasingly strong interest in the tentative airliner, coupled with the recovery of the industry during the late 1970s, contributed to Airbus deciding to put the A310 into production on 7 July 1978.[15] During the latter half of 1978, an order for ten A300s was placed by independent British airline Laker Airways, satisfying Airbus's demand for the placing of a British order for their aircraft.[7] On 1 April 1979, Lufthansa decided to raise its commitment for the type to 25 aircraft, along with 25 options. Two days later, Dutch operator KLM signed its order for ten aircraft and ten options at £238 million.[14][16][17] On 6 July 1979, Air France announced that it had raised its order from four to thirty-five airliners.[citation needed] Other airlines announcing orders for the A310 during 1979 included Martinair, Sabena, and Air Afrique.[16][17]

Initially, a pair of distinct versions of the A310 had been planned by Airbus; the regional A310-100, and the transcontinental A310-200. The A310-100 featured a range of 2,000 nmi (3,700 km; 2,300 mi) with 200 passengers, whilst the A310-200 possessed a higher MTOW and centre section fuel, being able to carry the same load a further 1,000 nmi (1,900 km; 1,200 mi).[18] Basic engines offered for the type included the General Electric CF6-45B2 and Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7R4. At one point, British engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce was openly considering offering an engine for the A310, the Rolls-Royce RB.207, however, it ultimately chose to discard such efforts in favour of a smaller three-spool design, the RB.211.

Entry into service

The range of the A310 exceeds that of the A300 series, with the exception of the A300-600R, which in turn surpasses that of the A310-200. The greater range of the A310 contributed to the airliner being used extensively by operators on transatlantic routes. The A300 and A310 introduced the concept of commonality: A300-600 and A310 pilots can cross-qualify for the other aircraft with one day of training.[citation needed]

Sales of the A310 continued through the early 1980s. On 3 April 1982, the prototype A310-200 airliner conducted its maiden flight; by this point, the type had accumulated a combined orders and options for 181 aircraft, which had been placed by fifteen airlines worldwide, which was a better start than the original A300. The launch customer of A310, Swissair, became the launch operator in April 1983.[15] Over time, it had become clear that the longer-range series −200 aircraft was the more popular of the two models on offer. During 1979, in response to the lack of demand for the A310-100, Airbus decided to stop offering the lower gross weight model which had been originally proposed for Lufthansa; as a consequence, none of this variant were ultimately manufactured.[16]

Sales and production end

In 1988, an A310 was delivered to Interflug: the first Airbus for an Eastern-bloc airline.

During the early 1990s, demand for the aircraft began to slacken; there were no new A310 passenger orders placed during the late 1990s, in part due to the introduction of the newer and more advanced Airbus A330 during this time. As a result, on June 15, 1998, the last delivery of an A310 (msn. 706, reg.UK-31003) was made to Uzbekistan Airways.[19] The A310, along with its A300 stablemate, officially ceased production during July 2007, though an order from Iraqi Airways for five A310s had remained on the books until July 2008. The remaining freighter sales were to be instead fulfilled by the new A330-200F derivative.[20]

The A310 had been commonly marketed as an introduction to wide-body operations for airlines based in developing countries. The airliner was replaced in Airbus' range by the highly successful A330-200, which shares its fuselage cross-section. Between 1983, and the last aircraft produced in 1998, 255 A310s were delivered.[1] 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.[citation needed]

As of July 2017, thirty-seven A310s remain in commercial service; major operators are Air Transat and Mahan Air with nine aircraft each; Fedex Express (six), and seven other airlines operating thirteen aircraft between them.[21][needs update]

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) currently operates a fleet of five Airbus CC-150 Polaris, civilian Airbus A310-300s, originally owned by Wardair, and subsequently Canadian Airlines International, after the airlines merged. The aircraft were then sold to the Canadian government, and have been converted for use as the primary long-distance transport aircraft as part of the Royal Canadian Air Force's fleet of Royal Canadian Air Force VIP aircraft.


The A310 has front and rear main doors, and a smaller emergency exit wing door over the wing.
2-4-2 economy cabin
Two-crew cockpit

The Airbus A310 was a medium- to long-range twin-engined wide-body jet airliner. Initially a derivative of the A300, the aircraft had originally been designated the A300B10. It was essentially a shortened variant of the earlier aircraft; however, there were considerable differences between the two aircraft.[22] Specifically, the fuselage possessed the same cross-section, but being shorter than the A300, it provided capacity for a typical maximum of 200 passengers. The rear fuselage was heavily re-designed, featuring altered tapering, while involved a move aft of the rear bulkhead to create additional capacity; this same design change was later transferred back to later variants of the A300, such as the A300-600 and A330/A340 fuselages.[22] The A310 also had a different emergency exit configuration, consisting of four main doors (two at the front and two at the rear of the aircraft), and two smaller doors over the wings.[citation needed]

The wing of the A310 was redesigned, possessing a reduced span and wing area, and incorporating simpler single-slotted Fowler flaps designed by British Aerospace shortly following its decision to join the Airbus consortium.[22] Other changes to the wing included the elimination of the outer ailerons, which were occasionally referred to by the manufacturer as being "low speed ailerons", and the addition of electrically actuated spoilers. The wing also featured common pylons, which were able to support all types of engines that were offered to customers to power the airliner.[22] From 1985 onwards, the A310-300 introduced wingtip fences which reduced vortex drag and thus improved cruise fuel consumption by over 1.5%.[23] A limited number of alterations were also performed to the airliner's tail unit, such as the adoption of smaller horizontal tail surfaces.[22]

The A310 was furnished with a two-crew glass cockpit configuration as standard, removing the requirement for a flight engineer; Airbus referred to this concept as the Forward-Facing Crew Cockpit.[7] The company had developed the cockpit to significantly enhance the aircraft's man-machine interface, thereby improving operational safety. It was outfitted with an array of six computer-based cathode ray tube (CRT) displays to provide the flight crew with centralised navigational, warning, monitoring, and general flight information, in place of the more traditional analogue instrumentation and dials, which were used in conjunction with a range of modern electronic systems.[7] The same flight deck was incorporated into the A300-600, a move which increased commonality between the two types, and enabled a dual type rating to be achieved, this same approach was later used on many future Airbus aircraft. In addition to the two flying crew, provisions for third and fourth crew seats were present within the flight deck.[7]

The A310 was initially proposed with a choice of three engines: the General Electric CF6-80A1, the Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7R4D1, and the Rolls-Royce RB211-524.[24] The A310 was launched with the Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7R4D1 or the General Electric CF6-80A3. Subsequently available were the 53,500 lbf (238 kN) CF6-80C2A2 or the 52,000 lbf (230 kN)PW4152. From late 1991 the higher thrust 59,000 lbf (260 kN) CF6-80C2A8 or 56,000 lbf (250 kN)PW4156A became available.[25]

The A310 was equipped with a modified undercarriage, derived from the A300; the landing gear were outfitted with carbon brakes, which were fitted as standard.[22] The structure of the airliner featured a high level of composite materials throughout both primary and secondary structures, increased beyond that of the earlier A300. The A310 is outfitted with integrated drive electrical generators along with auxiliary power unit, which were improved versions of those used on the A300.[22]


FedEx Express A310-200F without wingtip fences
Air Transat A310-300 with wingtip fences

The A310 is available in two basic versions, the medium range −200 and the longer range −300. The first version of the aircraft to be developed was the −200, but this was later joined by the −300, which then became the standard production version of the aircraft. The short range −100 variant was never developed due to low demand.

The first A310, the 162nd Airbus off the production line, made its maiden flight on 3 April 1982 powered by the earlier Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7R4D1 engines. The −200 entered service with Swissair and Lufthansa a year later. Late series −200 also featured wing fences identical to those of the −300. The first three A310s were initially fitted with outboard ailerons; they were later removed once testing showed them to be unnecessary.[26] Production of the A310-200 ended in 1988.
A convertible version, the seats can be removed and cargo placed on the main deck, the A310-200C entered service with Martinair on 29 November 1984.[27]
The freight version of the A310-200 was available as a new build, or as a conversion of existing wide-bodied aircraft. The A310-200F freighter can carry 39 t (86,000 lb) of freight for 5,950 km (3,210 nmi; 3,700 mi).[28] No production freighters of the A310-200F were produced. The converted Airbus A310-200F entered service with FedEx Express in 1994.[29]
First flown on 8 July 1985, the −300 is dimensionally identical to the −200, although it provides an increased Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) and an increase in range, provided by additional centre and horizontal stabiliser (trim-tank) fuel tanks. This model also introduced wingtip fences to improve aerodynamic efficiency, a feature that has since been retrofitted to some −200s. The aircraft entered service in 1986 with Swissair. The A310-300 incorporates a computerised fuel distribution system which allows it to be trimmed in flight, optimising the centre of gravity by shuttling up to 5,000 kg (11,000 lb) of fuel in and out of the horizontal stabiliser tank, controlled by the Centre of Gravity Control Computer.
A convertible passenger/cargo version, the seats can be removed and cargo placed on the main deck.
The freight version of the A310-300F. Operators such as FedEx Express acquired modified ex-passenger A310s, usually starting with the −300 version. No production freighters of the A310-300F were produced.
Airbus A310 MRTT of the German Air Force

Main article: Airbus A310 MRTT

The A310 has been operated by several air forces as a pure transport, the A310-300 MRT Multi-Role Transport. However several have now been converted to the A310 MRTT Multi-Role Tanker Transport configuration by EADS, providing an air-to-air refuelling capability. At least six have been completed; four by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), and two by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Deliveries began in 2004. Three were converted at EADS EFW in Dresden, Germany; the other three at Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg, Germany.
A310 Zero G
One A310 airframe became a scientific research laboratory dedicated to weightlessness. This reduced-gravity aircraft is used to realise parabolas, allowing to perform twenty-two seconds of weightlessness. Operated by Novespace [fr], subsidiary of CNES, French Space Agency, A310 Zero G is based at Bordeaux Mérignac airport.[30] It also performs scientific flights and movie special effects, such as for The Mummy (2017).[31]


Mahan Air A310-300
Royal Canadian Air Force CC-150 Polaris

Main article: List of Airbus A310 operators

As of October 2023, there were 48 A310 family aircraft in service.[32]

Civilian operators

As of March 2023, the following airlines are the known remaining civilian operators of A310 aircraft:[32][needs update]

Military operators

The A310 is also used by the armed forces of the following countries:[citation needed]


By the end of production, a total of 255 A310s had been ordered and delivered.[1]

total 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 1990 1989 1988 1987 1986 1985 1984 1983
deliveries 255 1 2 2 2 2 22 24 19 18 23 28 21 19 26 29 17

Accidents and incidents

As of September 2015 there have been 12 hull-loss accidents involving A310s with a total of 825 fatalities; and 9 hijackings with a total of five fatalities.[34]

Accidents with fatalities


Other incidents

Preserved aircraft

The first Airbus delivered in China was this A310, to China Eastern Airlines in 1985, retired in 2006 and displayed at the Beijing Civil Aviation Museum.

Seven aircraft were preserved

In popular culture

An Airbus A310-300 of the fictional Belarus Airways appeared in the 2013 movie World War Z. The plane was leased from HiFly, a Portuguese airline, with registration number CS-TEX.


Aircraft model designations

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists



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  1. ^ Final assembly in France
  2. ^ The fuselage is 14 frames (7.42m) shorter than the A300 fuselage, but the rear bulkhead was set 2 frames farther into the tailcone, so that only 12 frames of seating capacity were lost in the shortened version.
  3. ^ ISA, LRC, JT9D, 237 passengers
  4. ^ ISA, LRC, 240 passengers