Is one of the success stories of European industrial cooperation. Founded in 1967 as a consortium of European aircraft manufacturers, the aim of Airbus was to design and build large passenger aircraft that could compete with the large US Corporation Boeing.
Airbus comprises four partners: British Aerospace, Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA (CASA) of Spain, Daimler-Benz Aerospace of Germany, and Aerospatiale of France. Each of the four partners specializes in producing different parts of the aircraft. Airbus has grown considerably in terms of market share and by the 1990s had almost a 45% share of the market for large passenger aircraft. Boeing, however, has complained about the massive government subsidies being channeled into Airbus in order to make it viable, and has labeled such activity as constituting nothing less than unfair competition. Tension was particularly acute in the 1980s, until a bilateral agreement on civil aircraft, which capped government support for new aircraft, was reached in June 1992.
Nevertheless, relations were still tense, as was evident in the European Union’s (EU) total opposition to the planned merger between Boeing and McDonnell Douglas in 1997. This merger aimed to create the world’s largest aerospace and Defense Company. Airbus would be the only other major competitor.
The European Commission raised its concerns about the potential dominance in the world market of this new company, and threatened to oppose the merger and to impound Boeing aircraft if they landed on EU soil. The USA saw EU competition policy as another means to protect Airbus. Rumors of a trade war between the EU and the USA grew and the sensitivity of the issue also led to intervention by the US President, Bill Clinton.
The issue was only resolved when the Commission sanctioned a merger providing that many of the clauses that would have tied Boeing customers to the new company for 20 years were removed. In an effort to make Airbus more competitive and more efficient, it was transformed in 1999 into a limited company; it became a single integrated operating company in 2001. There remains a consistent rivalry between Airbus and Boeing, and the former overtook Boeing in terms of orders in 2002 after securing a huge 120-aircraft deal from the British low-cost carrier Easy Jet in October of that year. In terms of production, Airbus delivered 303 aircraft in 2002, worth some US $19,500m., which constituted the third consecutive year that the company had delivered more than 300 aircraft.
Airbus is the world’s leading aircraft manufacturer whose customer focus, commercial know-how, technological leadership, and manufacturing efficiency have propelled it to the forefront of the industry.
Airbus’ modern and comprehensive product line comprises highly successful families of aircraft ranging from 107 to 525 seats: the single-aisle A320 Family, the wide-body long-range A330/A340 and the all-new next generation A350 XWB Family, and the ultra long-range, double-decker A380 Family. The company also continues to broaden its scope and product range by applying its expertise to the military market. It is as well extending its portfolio of freighter aircraft that will set new standards in the general and express freight market sectors.
Across all its fly-by-wire aircraft families Airbus’ unique approach ensures that aircraft share the highest possible degree of commonality in airframes, on-board systems, cockpits and handling characteristics, which reduces significantly operating costs for airlines.
Dedicated to helping airlines enhance the profitability of their fleets, Airbus also delivers a wide range of customer services in all areas of support, tailored to the needs of individual operators all over the world
Headquartered in Toulouse, Airbus is owned by EADS, a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. This group – which is comprised of Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter, in addition to Airbus – has a presence on every continent, and employs a total workforce of more than 119,000.
Airbus itself is a truly global enterprise of some 59,000 employees, with fully-owned subsidiaries in the United States, China, and Japan and in the Middle East, spare parts centres in Hamburg, Frankfurt, Washington, Beijing and Singapore, training centres in Toulouse, Miami, Hamburg, and Beijing and more than 150 field service offices around the world.
Airbus also relies on industrial co-operation and partnerships with major companies all over the world, and a network of some 1,500 suppliers in 30 countries.
Airbus today consistently captures about half of all commercial airliner orders.
The A300 became the world’s first twin-engine wide body jet, entering airline service in 1974. This was followed in the early 1980s by Airbus’ shorter-fuselage A310 derivative, and was joined later that decade by the single-aisle A320 – which developed into one of the most successful aircraft families in history with the A318, A319, A320, and A321.
The 1990s saw Airbus introduce its long range A330/A340 jetliner Family, and a new era of airline travel started in 2007 when the 525-seat A380 began commercial operation.
Looking to the future, deliveries of Airbus’ long-range twin-engine A350 XWB are expected to commence in 2013, while its military product line is expanding to include the A330 Multi-role Tanker Transport and the A400M.
Airbus is the world’s leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military airlifters, with a 40-plus year track record of innovation, technological firsts, and industry milestones.
A comprehensive history of Airbus is provided in the chapters below – which cover the company’s creation and launch of the game-changing A300, all the way to its continued leadership in the 21st century and new-generation A380 and A350 XWB programmes.