Europe's smallest widebody aircraft

It was in the late 1970's after Airbus Industries had unveiled its first product, the A300, to the world's airlines that the studies of the A310 began. Toulouse based Airbus wanted initially to improve the A300 with updated avionics and increased range, and so it designed a new aircraft with a smaller fuselage with updated avionics which would appeal to Europe's major airlines. The new aircraft was named A310, it was decided to follow a logical sequence in the A300 with '10' increments for future models. The initial variant, the A310-200, had a limited range, but an improved variant, the A310-300, had extra fuel tanks in its horizontal stabilizer as well as small winglets which would slightly reduce drag hence increase fuel efficiency.
The A310 made its maiden flight in 1982 and entered service in 1983 with launch customers Swissair and Lufthansa on short and medium haul flights within Europe. Other major European airlines including Air France, KLM, Sabena and British Caledonian followed quickly a year later, in 1984, with the introduction of the A310.
Airbus began to sell the A310 to airlines outside of Europe in the middle of the 1980's. I believe that Air India was the launch customer for the A310-300 (if not the launch customer one of the very first airlines to introduce the variant) and introduced the type in 1985. At that time, Pan Am had signed a contract for an order of A300's and A310's. Until Delta took over most of Pan Am's assets, Pan Am was the only US operator of the A310 in passenger version. After Pan Am's demise, Delta operated the A310 for a while but it also ordered the type on its own, not just adding former Pan Am aircraft in its fleet. Other major airlines worldwide to introduce the A310 include Singapore Airlines, Royal Jordanian, Nigeria Airways, Kenya Air, TAP Air Portugal, Turkish Airlines and Emirates. Five airlines from Eastern Europe, Aeroflot, Interflug, Tarom, Uzbekistan Airways and CSA, introduced the A310 shortly after the collapse of the communist world.

The A310 suffered no less than three major disasters in its history.
In 1995, an Aeroflot aircraft crashed in the former Soviet Union territory. The captain had let his son take over the controls and the auto pilot was disengaged! The aircraft lost control and all passengers and crew perished.
Also in 1995, a Tarom aircraft crashed shortly after take off out of Bucharest Otopeni airport, it was assigned on a scheduled flight to Brussels as RO 371. The disaster was due to an asymmetrical thrust where one engine was running at full power while the other engine was running idle! There were no survivors.
In 2008, a Sudan Airways bird crashed in Khartoum shortly after it landed. The aircraft suffered an engine failure and burst into flames a few minutes after touch down. The bad weather wasn't the only cause to the crash. What may have caused the disaster is the sandstorm in Sudan, the right wing touched the ground as the engine burst into flames. Out of the 200+ passengers and crew, 100 were reported dead according to several media sources.

I have flown on the A310 twice in my whole life. I flew on it once in 1987 with Pan Am from Nice to New York and once in 1988 with Sabena from Tel Aviv to Brussels. I never flew on that aircraft since then. It was at that time the beginning of the wide body twin jets on long haul flights. Boeing responded with the 767 just after Airbus had unveiled the A300 and A310.

In the middle of the 1990's the airlines began gradually replacing the A310 with the A330. I believe that the production of the A310 ended in the late 1990's. Only a few major airlines still fly the A310 in passenger version today (late 2000's), including THY, Tarom and CSA as far as I know. Tarom suspended long haul operations in the late 1990's/early 2000's but resumed flying their two A310's (they had three of them, minus one that crashed in 1995) in the middle of the 2000's. The type is now seen flying as passenger hauler with smaller airlines and as freighter. Fed Ex is the most important operator of the A310 in freighter version.
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