Airbus facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Airbus SAS
Type Subsidiary
Industry Aerospace
When it was created 1970 (as Airbus Industrie)
2001 (Airbus as SAS)
Headquarters Toulouse, France
Key people Fabrice Brégier
(Chief Executive Officer)
Guenter Butschek
(Chief Operating Officer)
Things made Commercial airliners (list)
Money earned Increase €33.10 billion (FY 2011)
Net income Increase €1.597 billion (FY 2008)
Employees 55,000
Parent EADS
Subsidiaries Airbus Military
13-08-07 - Airbus A330 - hongkong airport
A 330-200 Air Seychelles 2013

Airbus SAS is a company which makes aircraft. It is owned by EADS, a European aerospace company. Airbus has its headquarters in Blagnac, France.

Airbus began as a consortium (a group) of aircraft makers called Airbus Industrie. Later, in 2001, it became a joint-stock company. It was owned by EADS (80%) and BAE Systems (20%). BAE sold its part of the company to EADS on 13 October 2006, so EADS now completely owns the company.

Around 55,000 people work for Airbus in sixteen places in four European Union countries: France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain. The final part of Airbus aircraft making is done in Toulouse, France; Hamburg, Germany; Seville, Spain; and, since 2009, Tianjin, China.

Airbus makes and sells the first digital fly-by-wire airliner, the Airbus A320. Airbus also makes the biggest airliner in the world, the Airbus A380.



Airbus Industrie started as a consortium (group) of European aircraft makers. The companies came together to compete with American companies like Boeing, McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed.

Even though a lot of European planes had a lot of new features, even the most successful planes were not made for long. In 1991, Jean Pierson, who was then the CEO and Managing Director of Airbus Industrie, gave some reasons why American plane makers were bigger: because the United States is so big, people preferred to fly; a 1942 agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States meant that the United States would make transport planes; and World War II had given the United States "a profitable, vigorous, powerful and structured aeronautical industry."

"For the purpose of strengthening European co-operation in the field of aviation technology and thereby promoting economic and technological progress in Europe, to take appropriate measures for the joint development and production of an airbus."

Airbus mission statement

In the 1960s, some plane makers were thinking about coming together. Some aircraft companies had already thought that this would need to happen. In 1959, Hawker Siddeley thought about making an "Airbus" version of the Armstrong Whitworth AW.660 Argosy. This version would "be able to lift as many as 126 passengers on ultra short routes at a direct operating cost of 2d. per seat mile." However, European aircraft makers knew that making this plane would be dangerous. They knew that they would have to work together to make a plane like this. At the 1965 Paris Air Show, big European airlines began to think about the specifications for the "airbus". In that same year, Hawker Siddeley joined with Breguet and Nord to design the airbus. By 1966, Sud Aviation (became Aérospatiale) (France), Arbeitsgemeinschaft Airbus (became Deutsche Airbus) (Germany) and Hawker Siddeley (UK) were all working together. The partners asked for money from the French, German and British governments in October 1966. On 25 July 1967, the three governments gave the money and decided to continue with the airbus.

In the two years after this, both the British and French governments thought the project would fail. 75 orders were needed before 31 July 1968. The French government thought about leaving the partnership, because it was worried about the costs of the Airbus A300, Concorde and the Dassault Mercure. The French government was persuaded to stay. The British government left the partnership on 10 April 1969. Hawker Siddeley was helping until the British government left, and France and Germany did not want to design the airbus' wing (which Hawker Siddeley was doing). Hawker Siddeley was allowed to keep helping, but it did not have any help from the British government.

Beginning of Airbus Industrie

Airbus A300 B2 Zero-G
Airbus A300, the first Airbus aircraft

Airbus Industrie was officially started as a Groupement d'Interet Économique (Economic Interest Group or GIE) on 18 December 1970. The name "Airbus" was taken from a word used by airlines in the 1960s. It meant an aircraft with a certain size and range. Aérospatiale and Deutsche Airbus each owned 36.5% of the company, Hawker Siddeley owned 20% and Fokker-VFW owned 7%. Each company made its own parts of the plane, and they were completely ready when they were delivered. In October 1971, the Spanish company CASA took 4.2% of Airbus Industrie. Aérospatiale and Deutsche Airbus lowered their share to 47.9%. In January 1979, British Aerospace, which had taken over Hawker Siddeley in 1977, took 20% of Airbus Industrie. Aérospatiale and Deutsche Airbus lowered their share even more, to 37.9%. CASA kept its 4.2%.

Designing the Airbus A300

Eastern Air Lines Airbus A300 at St Maarten December 1986
Eastern Air Lines was Airbus's first American customer. It ordered the Airbus A300 B4.

The Airbus A300 was to be the first aircraft which was designed, made and sold by Airbus Industrie. By 1967, the "A300" label was given an airliner which Airbus Industrie was thinking about making, with 320 seats and two engines. Roger Béteille was made the technical director of the A300 design. Béteille decided which companies would make which parts of the plane: France would make the cockpit, flight controls and part of the fuselage; Hawker Siddeley made the wings; Germany made part of the fuselage; the Dutch made the flaps and spoilers; and Spain made the horizontal tailplane. On 26 September 1967 the German, French and British governments signed an agreement in London, which allowed Airbus Industrie to continue designing the plane. Rolls-Royce made the engines.

Airlines did not really want a 300+ seat Airbus A300, so Airbus Industrie made the A250 proposal. This later became the A300B, which had 250 seats and did not need a new engine design. This made the plane much cheaper to design, as the Rolls-Royce RB207 which would have been used in the A300 made up a lot of the costs. The RB207 had also had design problems and delays, since Rolls-Royce was concentrating on designing a different jet engine, the RB211, for the Lockheed L-1011 The A300B was smaller but lighter than its American rivals.

"We showed the world we were not sitting on a nine-day wonder, and that we wanted to realise a family of planes…we won over customers we wouldn’t otherwise have we had two planes that had a great deal in common as far as systems and cockpits were concerned."

Jean Roeder, chief engineer of Deutsche Airbus, talking about the A310

In 1972, the A300 made its first flight. The first type of A300, the A300B2, began being used by airlines in 1974. However, not much attention was paid to the A300 because of the launch of Concorde. At first, the A300 was not very successful. However, airlines began to order more and more. Part of this was because of the Airbus Industrie CEO Bernard Lathière, who tried to sell the plane to airlines in America and Asia. By 1979, Airbus Industrie had 256 orders for the A300. Airbus Industrie had also designed a more advanced aircraft, the Airbus A310, the year before. It was the A320 in 1981 which made Airbus Industrie a very big aircraft maker. More than 400 orders were made for the A320 before it even flew. Only 15 were made for the A300 before it first flew.

Change to Airbus SAS

Since Airbus Industrie's planes were made by different companies, Airbus Industrie really only sold and advertised the planes. It became obvious that Airbus was no longer a temporary group made just to make one plane. It had become a big company which could make more planes. By the late 1980s, Airbus Industrie was working on two medium-sized planes: the Airbus A330 and the Airbus A340. In the early 1990s, the Airbus CEO Jean Pierson said that the partnership should be closed, and Airbus Industrie should become its own company. However, the difficulties of integrating and valuing the assets of four companies, as well as legal issues, delayed the initiative. In December 1998, when British Aerospace and DASA were close to merging with each other, Aérospatiale stopped the negotiations. The French company thought that if BAe and DASA merged, that company would own 57.9% of Airbus. Aérospatiale insisted that each company own half of Airbus each. However, the problem was fixed in January 1999, when BAe merged with Marconi Electronic Systems instead. This company became BAE Systems. Then in 2000, three of the companies which made Airbus Industrie (DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, the new Deutsche Airbus; Aérospatiale-Matra, the new Sud-Aviation; and CASA) merged. This merger made EADS. EADS now owned Airbus France, Airbus Deutschland and Airbus España, which was 80% of Airbus Industrie. BAE Systems and EADS created the new company, Airbus SAS. Both companies owned part of Airbus.

Designing the Airbus A380

In 1988, some Airbus engineers, led by Jean Roeder, began secretly designing a very big plane. It was made to allow Airbus to rival Boeing, whose 747 had been the only very big plane since the 1970s. Airbus made the project public at the 1990 Farnborough Air Show. Airbus wanted to make this plane 15% cheaper to use than the Boeing 747-400. In June 1994, Airbus named the plane the A3XX.

Five A380s were made for testing, and also to demonstrate the plane to airlines and the public. The first A380 was shown to the public on 18 January 2005, and it first flew on 27 April 2005. The head test pilot said that flying the A380 was like "like handling a bicycle". On 1 December 2005, the A380 reached its maximum speed, Mach 0.96. On 10 January 2006, the A380 made its first flight across the Atlantic, to Medellín, in Colombia.

On 3 October 2006, Airbus' CEO Christian Streiff said that the Airbus A380 was delayed because of problems with the software used to design the aircraft. The Toulouse factory used the latest version of CATIA (made by Dassault), but the people who were designing the plane in the Hamburg factory were using an older version. The 530 km of cables which go through the aircraft had to have their design completely changed. No airlines cancelled their orders, but Airbus still had to pay a lot of money because of the delay.

The first A380 was delivered to Singapore Airlines on 15 October 2007. It began to be used on 25 October 2007, when it flew between Singapore and Sydney.

BAE sells its part of Airbus

On 6 April 2006, it was announced that BAE Systems would sell its 20% of Airbus. Its share was worth about €3.5 billion (US$4.17 billion). At first, BAE wanted to agree a price with EADS informally.

On 2 July 2006, BAE's part of the company was thought to be worth about £1.9 billion (€2.75 billion), which was much less than what BAE, analysts, and even EADS thought. In September 2006, BAE sold its part of Airbus for £1.87 billion (€2.75 billion, $3.53 billion). On 4 October, BAE's shareholders decided that the sale should go ahead, meaning that Airbus is now completely owned by EADS.

2007 restructuring

On 28 February 2007, CEO Louis Gallois said that Airbus was planning to make some changes. The programme was called Power8, and it got rid of 10,000 jobs over four years: 4,300 in France, 3,700 in Germany, 1,600 in the UK and 400 in Spain. Airbus factories in Saint Nazaire, Varel and Laupheim could be sold or closed, while Meaulte, Nordenham and Filton are "open to investors". Unions in France and Germany threatened to go on strike because of the job cuts.

2011 A320neo record orders

At the 2011 Paris Air Show, Airbus got 730 orders for Airbus A320neo family planes. These orders were worth $72.2 billion, and the number of orders is a new record in aviation. The A320neo was announced in December 2010, and it got 667 orders. Together with the orders before that time, there were 1029 orders made within six months after the plane was launched, which is also a new record.

Civilian planes

Airbus A320, the first plane in the A320 family

The first Airbus plane was the A300, the world's first twin-engined aircraft to have two aisles. A shorter version of the A300 is called the Airbus A310. Airbus launched the A320, which is special as it is the first commercial plane to use a digital fly-by-wire control system. The A320 has been, and still is, a very big success. The A318 and A319 are shorter versions, and the A321 is a longer version, of the A320. The A320's main rival is the Boeing 737 family.

The long-range wide-body planes, the Airbus A330 and the Airbus A340, have efficient wings, which also have winglets. The Airbus A340-500 can fly for 16,700 kilometres (9,000 nmi), which is the second-longest range for any commercial plane, after the Boeing 777-200LR. All Airbus aircraft after the A320 have similar cockpits, which makes it easier to train pilots. Airbus stopped making A340s in 2011 because not enough planes were being sold compared to other planes like the Boeing 777.

Airbus is studying a replacement for the A320. This plane is called the Airbus NSR, for "New Short-Range aircraft". Those studies said that the NSR could burn 9–10% less fuel than the current A320. Instead of making a brand new plane, Airbus decided to make changes to the current A320 by adding winglets and other improvements. This updated type of A320 is called the "A320 Enhanced" and it should use 4–5% less fuel.

In July 2007, Airbus gave the last A300 to FedEx, which was when Airbus stopped making A300/A310s.

Airbus made parts and helped maintain Concorde until it was retired in 2003.

Product list and details (date information from Airbus)
Aircraft Description Seats Maximum seats First flew on Stopped being made on
A300 2 engines, twin aisle 228–254 361 1972-10-28 2007-03-27 (561 built)
A310 2 engines, twin aisle, changed version of the A300 187 279 1982-04-03 2007-03-27 (255 built)
A318 2 engines, single aisle, shortened 6.17 m from A320 107 117 2002-01-15
A319 2 engines, single aisle, shortened 3.77 m from A320 124 156 1995-08-25
A320 2 engines, single aisle 150 180 1987-02-22
A321 2 engines, single aisle, lengthened 6.94 m from A320 185 220 1993-03-11
A330 2 engines, twin aisle 253–295 406–440 1992-11-02
A340 4 engines, twin aisle 239–380 420–440 1991-10-25 2008-09 (A340-200)
2011-11-10 (all other variants, 377 built)
A350 XWB 2 engines, twin aisle 270–350 550 2013
A380 4 engines, double deck, twin aisle 555 853 2005-04-27

Airbus Executive and Private Aviation is the part of Airbus which makes private jets. After Boeing started the Boeing Business Jet, Airbus made the A319 Corporate Jet in 1997. As of December 2008, 121 corporate and private jets are being used and 164 aircraft have been ordered.

Military planes

In the late 1990s Airbus became interested in designing and selling aircraft to the military. Airbus made planes for aerial refuelling with the Airbus A310 MRTT and the Airbus A330 MRTT, and tactical airlift with the A400M.

Airbus A400M Rollout
The first A400M in Seville on 26 June 2008.

In January 1999, Airbus started another company, Airbus Military SAS, to design and make a tactical transport aircraft, the Airbus Military A400M. The A400M was designed by several NATO members: Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey, and the UK, so that these countries did not have to use foreign transport planes. The A400M has had many delays.

Orders and deliveries

Aircraft Orders Deliveries Being used
A300 561 561 299
A310 255 255 161
A318 79 79 71
A319 1526 1370 1364
A320 6205 3334 3162
A321 1681 814 810
A330* 1246 984 972
A340* 377 377 359
A350 XWB 613 0 0
A380 262 103 103
Total 12805 7877 7301

* All models included.

Data as of 31 May 2013.

Rivalry with Boeing

Airbus is in a fierce rivalry with Boeing. NAirbus won more plane orders in 2003 and 2004. In 2005, Airbus got 1111 orders, and Boeing got 1029. In 2006, Airbus had its second-best year ever, when it got 824 orders. The year before that was even better. In August 2010, Airbus said that it would be making more A320 airliners, so that 40 would be made every month by 2012, when Boeing was making more 737s, so that 35 would be made every month.

As of April 2013, 7,264 Airbus aircraft are being used. There are 21% more Boeing aircraft than Airbus, because Airbus has not existed as long as Boeing. However, Airbus is catching up, as older Boeings are being retired.

Recently, more Boeing 777s have been sold than Airbus planes like the A330-300. The A330-200 is the main rival of the 767, and the A330-200 has sold more than the 767.

Airbus has also made the Airbus A350 XWB to be a rival to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This was done because airlines were asking Airbus to make a plane to rival the 787.

Boeing has complained that Airbus gets unfair help from European governments. However, Airbus has said that Boeing gets money illegally from the United States government, as the U.S. government buys many of Boeing's military products.

The WTO said in August 2010 and in May 2011 that Airbus was given unfair help by governments of European countries. In February 2011, the WTO found that Boeing had been given help by U.S. governments which broke the WTO rules.

Factories around the world

Airbus Toulouse plant entrance DSC02696
The main Airbus factory in Blagnac is next to Toulouse-Blagnac Airport. (43°36′44″N 1°21′47″E / 43.61222°N 1.36306°E / 43.61222; 1.36306)
Main Airbus factory in Hamburg, Germany
Main Airbus factory in Getafe, south of Madrid, Spain

Airbus has many different factories for different planes. These are:

Airbus uses the "Beluga" to move different parts of Airbus planes from one factory to the other. Boeing also uses some Boeing 747s to do this to transport parts for the 787. However, some parts of the Airbus A380 are too large to be carried by the Beluga. These big A380 parts are brought to Bordeaux on a ship. They are then taken to Toulouse on the Itinéraire à Grand Gabarit.

Airbus opened a factory in Tianjin, People's Republic of China in 2009.

Airbus started making a $350 million factory in Harbin, China in July 2009. When it is finished, 1,000 people will work there.


Airbus has started "Flightpath 2050", which will lower the amount of noise, CO2 and NOx made by Airbus planes.


Airbus has joined Honeywell and JetBlue Airways to lower the amount of pollution and how much oil planes need to use. They are trying to make a biofuel which could be used by 2030.

Airbus recently had the first flight using special fuel. It used 60% kerosene and 40% gas to liquids (GTL) fuel. It gave out the same amount of carbon, but less sulphur. The special fuel worked with Airbus' engine, so this type of fuel should not need new engines. This flight is thought to be a good advance towards environmentally-friendly planes.


Employees in different factories

Factory Country Number of employees
(Toulouse, Colomiers, Blagnac)
France 16,992
(Finkenwerder, Stade, Buxtehude)
Germany 13,420
Broughton, Flintshire, Wales UK 5,031
Bristol (Filton), England UK 4,642
Bremen Germany 3,330
Madrid (Getafe, Illescas) Spain 2,484
Saint-Nazaire France 2,387
Nordenham Germany 2,086
Nantes France 1,996
Albert (Méaulte) France 1,288
Varel Germany 1,191
Laupheim Germany 1,116
Cadiz (Puerto Real) Spain 448
Washington, D.C. (Herndon, Ashburn) USA 422
Beijing PRC 150
Wichita USA 320
Mobile, Alabama USA 150
Miami (Miami Springs) USA ?
Seville Spain ?
Moscow Russia ?
Tianjin PRC planning
Harbin PRC 1,000 (opening by end-2010)
Bangalore, Karnataka India 1800
Total 56,966+

(Data as of 31 December 2006)

Airbus plane numbering system

Airbus names its planes in a special way. The format is: the plane name, a dash, and a three-digit number.

The three-digit number after the plane name means the aircraft series, the company which makes the engines, and the version of the engines. For example, an A320-200 with version one International Aero Engines (IAE) V2500 engines would be called the A320-231.

Engine codes

Code Engine maker
0 General Electric (GE)
1 CFM International (GE/SNECMA)
2 Pratt & Whitney (P&W)
3 International Aero Engines (R-R, P&W, Kawasaki, Mitsubishi, and Ishikawajima-Harima)
4 Rolls-Royce (R-R)
6 Engine Alliance (GE and P&W)

Related pages

Images for kids

Airbus Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.