The Airbus A300 was launched at the Paris Air Show
in 1969, and was the first of many aircraft designed by Airbus
Industrie, a consortium
, Deutsche Aerospace
, Hawker Siddeley
, and CASA
. It made its first commercial flight with Air France
The current production version of the A300 is the A300-600, which first flew in 1987 and seats 266 passengers in first and economy class, with a range of 7,700 km (about 4,000 miles). In single-class layout, nearly 300 people can be crammed in. In all-freight configuration, the A300 can carry 51 tonnes of cargo.
Most A300's are found on high-density routes of around 2-5 hours: the A300 lacks the range for longer transoceanic flights, which are more within the domain of the Airbus A330 and Airbus A340.
One unique variant of the A300 is the A300-600ST Beluga. It gets this name from its enormous fuselage, which is 7 m (23 ft) in diameter and can accommodate loads up to 5 m (16 ft) in cross section. The Beluga was originally designed to ferry Airbus wings and other large components from plants in Europe to the assembly line in Toulouse, but Airbus now charters the airplanes out to various customers such as the European Space Agency. It is the second-largest cargo carrier in the world after the Russian Antonov An-225 Mriya (although planes like the C-5 Galaxy and Antonov An-124 can carry more tonnage, the Beluga beats them hands down in terms of size).
There are currently 223 A300's in service. Broken down by airline, the largest A300 fleets belong to:
Japan Air System - 36
American Airlines - 35
Thai Airways International - 24
Korean Air - 20
China Airlines - 16
Lufthansa - 12
Indian Airlines - 12
Egyptair - 11