It was the 1970s, and airlines began looking for new short-to-medium range airliners with the capacity of about 250 passengers (to replace their fleets of mostly Boeing aircraft dating from the 1960s). An amalgamation of Aérospatiale and Deutsche Airbus (along with the then Hawker Siddeley Aviation – later British Aerospace – as a commercial partner) formed Airbus Industrie in 1970 and came up with a real winner.
They proposed a wide-bodied, twin-aisle, twin-engined aircraft carrying between 220 and 336 passengers. It was, initially, to be Rolls-Royce powered but the production version, renamed A300B, was powered by two General Electric CF6-50 engines rated at 51,000 lbs st. Each Airbus Industrie partner was assigned a part of the structure (in Hawker Siddeley’s case – and their successor, British Aerospace – it was the advanced and very efficient wing). All of the manufactured sections were brought together and assembled at a new facility at Toulouse, France. The first Airbus A300B flew on 28th October, 1972, and was quickly followed by other, improved, versions. The Airbus A300B4 first flew on 26th December, 1974, and was a longer-range A300B with a centre-section fuel tank and Kreuger flaps (leading-edge devices which increase wing camber, and therefore, lift). A300B4′s quickly joined the world’s airline fleets in numbers, initially being produced at the rate of two a month.
The aircraft shown, A300B4-103F, EI-OZA, has been an extremely busy aircraft. It was built in 1981 as construction number 148, (with a ‘test’ registration of F-WZMB), then delivered to Olympic Airways. It flew as SX-BEG, in their blue/white livery of the time complete with Olympic rings on the fin, in standard passenger configuration. The aircraft was named ‘Diomedes’, after a hero in Greek mythology. During the next 17 years, ‘Diomedes’ flew all over the Olympic Airways route system; it flew the Athens (LGAV) to London-Heathrow (EGLL) route in 1981, was seen at Amsterdam-Schipol (EHAM) in 1986, and Frankfurt-Am-Main (EDDF) in 1991. Unfortunately, at the end of one journey SX-BEG developed a nasty leak from the port-side aft lavatory, which showed up on landing at Frankfurt!
In 1998 the aircraft was converted to freighter configuration (becoming an A300B4-103F) and leased by L’Aéropostale as F-GOZA. The French carrier used -ZA on its contract postal routes as well as carrying freight for Air France. December 2002 saw the aircraft moved to Air Contractors (part of ASL Aviation Group, based in Ireland) who currently manage all the Airbus A300B-4 freighters for the DHL line; it was also placed on the Irish Civil Register at this time as EI-OZA. DHL Express (and its European Air Transport division) are a German-based freight carrier, notable for the provision of ‘small packet’ services on a worldwide basis.
After a short while on the Belgian Civil Aircraft Register as OO-DIF, the aircraft finally reverted to its Irish identity just in time to be consigned, in 2010, to Air Salvage International at Cotswold Airport, Kemble, Gloucestershire. Here it is seen, with the DHL titles painted out, awaiting its fate. It is highly likely that any reuseable parts will be removed, and the remainder scrapped.
Whether carrying passengers or freight, A300B4, EI-OZA, has had a long and hugely productive life – typical of the breed.