The Airbus A300, the world’s first widebody twinjet, entered service with Air France in 1974, but it wasn’t long before the airlines were clamoring for something just a bit smaller for shorter routes but still with the legs to fly across the ocean. Airbus responded by shortening the A300 to produce the A310, which entered service in 1983 and offered the same 8-abreast seating found in the A300 and with accommodations for up to 240 passengers and a range of almost 6,000 miles.
Over 15 years of production from 1983-1998, Airbus cranked out 255 A310s, and they were flown by over a hundred different airlines at one time or another. Today, only about 40 remain flying, with the bulk of those operated by governments or militaries. Commercially, most remaining A310s ply the skies for Iranian or Afghan airlines. Air Transat of Canada is the last western carrier to operate the widebody, and they plan to retire their remaining A310s after a final return flight from Paris-Charles de Gaul to Quebec City on April 27. The airline will replace the aging widebodies with newer Airbus A321LRs. If you really want to fly on an A310, you’ll have to travel to Iran or Afghanistan.
For me, the retirement of the A310 doesn’t strike any emotional chords or produce a sense of nostalgia. It’s no secret that I’m a Boeing guy at heart (though they are making it harder and harder these days), but Airbus airliners–fine aircraft to be sure–just don’t have the same allure to me as ones built by Boeing, a company that dates back to the Golden Age of Aviation and the dawn of the Jet Age. Aviation nuts rushed to Iran to fly on the 707 and the 727 for the last time, and tears will be shed by many (including myself, perhaps) when the last 747 is parked in the desert. Enthusiasts are counting the days until the retirement of the 757, that funky, long, hot rod of a plane that still inspires awe with its power (along with curses if you’re waiting to deplane from the last row). But is anybody going to rush to Paris to catch the last A310 flight across the Atlantic? I imagine some will, but likely just to tick a box in a life list rather than take part in capital-letter Aviation History.
Last December, I flew from Austin to New York City with a stopover in Baltimore. The southern leg was flown on a Boeing 737-800, and northern leg on an Airbus A320. For the first time in my life, I got on the plane, went to my seat, never looked out the window, and simply waited patiently for my flight to arrive. The flights were....fine. I would like to lament the end of the A310 era. But the modern airliner has become an appliance. And that makes me sad.
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