If you are a frequent flier, you might have wondered why Airbus, the world’s second-largest aircraft manufacturing company, names all its commercial aircrafts with the number 300.
Beginning with a twin-aisle and twin-engine aircraft A300, which the company launched in 1972, all its aircrafts are in the sequence of 300. The only exception is a recent (aircraft) variant, which the company has named as A220.
Though the number didn’t always sequence with time progression, Airbus’s love for 300 remained intact. For instance, it launched A380 in 2005 and almost eight years later came up with A350.
Bob Lange, Head of Business Analysis and Market Forecast, in an exclusive chat with Outlook, revealed the company’s 50-year long obsession (Airbus completed 50 years of its operation in May 2019) with the number 300.
“The original design of A300 had 300 seats. 'A' stands for Airbus. The aircraft was for short and medium range operations. The founder of the company always envisaged a family of aircraft which went sequentially as A300, A310, A320 and so on,” Lange said.
Lange admitted that the naming of the first aircraft had a co-relation with one of its features. However, later on, the company decided to stick to the number 300 and go sequentially irrespective of whether any particular number reflects any of the features of an aircraft.
“When you start the series off, it is a little like a car registration number. You put the system in place, you don’t know how it will evolve,” Lange said.
“After the first model, there was a willingness to develop a family of aircraft. The numbering went sequentially. A300, A310, A319, A320, A321, A330, A340 and that sequentially was linked to time,” he added.
But why was the gap between the numbers? Why not A301 after A300?
“When you move up, you never know what might happen in between so you leave some space,” Lange said, suggesting that the gap between the numbers was purposely kept to launch a new variant of aircraft with features similar to the closer ones.
Asked about the big jump from A340 to A380, Lange said that the company knew that it was going to be a big step up in terms of capacity. “So we needed to leave more space in numbering,” he said.
“Also when we named the A380, it was the first four double-deck aircraft so when you looked across the section of the aircraft you could imagine figure 8,” he added.
But that’s not it. He shared another interesting reason for naming the new variant as A380.
“Figure 8 is considered to be a lucky number in Asia and we could see the biggest market of the aircraft would be in Asia. So we chose to go from 4 to 8,” he told Outlook.
After few years of the launch of A380, Airbus entered into military aircraft manufacturing in 2011 and started off a new series beginning with 400. “So it became the A 400M where 'M' stands for the military. So our next model was the A400M,” Lange said.
In 2013, the company came back to the smaller long-range aircraft, so it picked up where it had left and went from A340 to A350.
Lange feels that everybody has challenges in the numbering system. “So if we do another military aircraft, we have the A400M there and we need to consider what comes after 400. If we do another all-new civilian aircraft we will need to consider whether it becomes a 370. But as of now, we haven’t thought about it,” Lange said.
The naming of A220 has an interesting take too. Airbus acquired the majority stake in Bombardier C Series in 2017 and the company already had a family of narrow-body, twin-engine, medium-range jet airliners in operation which was called Bombardier CS100.
“So what we decided to do is that this is an aircraft which does the same job as a smaller A320. So we chose to call it A220. So that was the logic behind that,” Lange concluded.