MIAMI – Today in Aviation, Eastern Airlines (EA) became the first US carrier to introduce the Airbus A300 into service in 1977.
Four 229-seat A300B4s were leased from the European manufacturer. This was part of an in-service trial to promote the airliner in the US. Eastern put the aircraft into service on its trunk routes along the Eastern Seaboard.
The type exceeded expectations during the trial. No aircraft ever placed into service by the airline had functioned so well from the outset, with minimal technical issues or delays. Passengers loved the airplanes, and Eastern soon discovered that the A300 used 30% less fuel than their Lockheed L-1011 Tristar’s.
Ordering Its Own Metal
So impressed was Eastern’s CEO that he placed a $778 million order for 23 of the type on April 6, 1978. The four already in service would be retained and nineteen more would be purchased outright with deliveries from 1978.
The order was significant for Airbus. It was seen by many as the point where the European plane-maker was finally seen as a major competitor to the American behemoths Boeing and McDonnell Douglas.
Pan Am (PA) followed the EA order shortly afterward with a deal for 13. American Airlines (AA) ordered 25 A300s with options on a further ten. Deliveries began in 1988.
Featured image: N226EA joined the fleet in December 1981 and remained until EA’s demise in January 1991. (Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)