Airbus as we know it today is quite a young company, having only been formed in 1970. It was born as a consortium between firms from France and Germany, with one from Spain joining slightly later. The company was known as Airbus Industrie, and in 1974 set up in Toulouse, France. The firm’s headquarters are still there today.
Thirty three years ago, in May 1974, Airbus delivered its very first aircraft, an A300B2, to first operator Air France.
British Aerospace joined the consortium in 1979 and each of the four, Airbus France, Airbus Deutschland, Airbus UK and Airbus España, operated as national companies. Each arm had responsibility for certain parts of the aircraft – for example Airbus UK in Broughton, North Wales produces wings. The aircraft parts are all transported to Toulouse for final assembly. As well as this the GIE provided a single face for other areas of operations such as sales and customer support.
Airbus remained like this until 2001, when the need to streamline operations led to it becoming a single company. The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) got 80 per cent of shares and British Aerospace successor BAE Systems acquired 20 per cent. However, these were sold in 2006 and Airbus became a EADS company.
Airbus has always had a reputation for innovation. Aircraft families like the A300/A310, the A320 and the long-range A330/A340 spelled success for the firm, and this went even further in 2005 when Airbus unveiled the A380 – the world’s largest passenger aircraft.
Currently, 57,000 people are employed by Airbus and there are 16 European sites for manufacturing, production and sub-assembly. Final assembly takes place in Toulouse and also Hamburg. Airbus also has a presence in North America, China, Japan and Russia. There are also Centres of Excellence around Europe to unify and simplify the aircraft design and production management process.
Airbus also has a presence in the military market, with a 64 per cent (the largest) shareholding in Airbus Military SL, a stand-alone company responsible for management, marketing and support of the A400M. Airbus has a significant role in the manufacture of the Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft, and the A330-MRTT is due to enter service in 2009.
The Airbus mission is to create the best and safest aircraft and the company prides itself on listening to customers and responding to market needs.
It took 19 years for Airbus to deliver its 1000th aircraft (1993), after the debut aircraft was delivered in 1974. Six years later in 1999 Airbus reached the 2000 figure. With an expanding portfolio of aircraft, the next few years saw Airbus reach the targets of 3000 and 4000.
Airbus delivered its 5000th aircraft on December 14, 2007, which was an A330-200 to Australian customer, Qantas.
Airbus delivered 453 aircraft in 2007, and have 3,421 orders, including 188 of the huge A380s on a backlog list.
KEYWORDS: AIRBUS, BRITISH AEROSPACE, A380, AIRCRAFT, TOULOUSE, MRTT, EADS, BAE SYSTEMS