Virgin Atlantic Airways 340-313 Airbus carrying out a low pass. GAV 4012-382.

- Image ID: A07NPR
Virgin Atlantic Airways 340-313 Airbus carrying out a low pass. GAV 4012-382.
David Gowans / Alamy Stock Photo
Image ID: A07NPR
Airbus Industrie took shape formally late in 1970. It was a consortium, an association of corporations, working under French laws governing multinational cooperative programs that relied on government financing. The A-300 first flew in October 1972. However, during the next five years it racked up only 38 orders. In Toulouse, home of Sud, 16 unsold aircraft sat along a fence outside the plant, their tails painted white and showing no airline insignia. It was desperation time, and the desperation increased when a sale to America's Western Airlines fell through early in 1977. But Airbus had another prospect in Eastern Airlines. Its president, Frank Borman, had been urging U.S. planebuilders to build their own wide-body twinjet but had received no firm response. Borman now turned to Airbus, arranging to borrow four A-300s for a six-month trial. He soon found that he liked them. Their reliability was excellent; better yet, they used up to one-third less fuel than the L-1011s that he was flying. In the spring of 1978, Borman agreed to purchase 23 of the new jets. In 1986, Airbus took a further leap with another new program, the A-330/340. This took shape as a single airplane that could accommodate either two or four engines. The A-330 was the twinjet version; it was larger than the A-300 and the Boeing 767. The A-340 was the four-engine version. Built for long range, it served transoceanic routes that covered world-spanning distances but attracted too few travelers. Planebuilders serve the world's airlines by offering an array of designs that cover the most important combinations of range and passenger capacity. The new A-330/340 put Airbus cleanly into Boeing's class, permitting it to sell a line of aircraft having similar breadth. Helped by subsidies, sales of these craft soon were zooming. In 1989, Airbus posted 412 orders, representing one-third of all worldwide purchases. In 1990 the Europeans sold the largest number of jets smaller than the 747. In 1991 they nearly
Location: RAF Fairford, England. United Kingdom.