Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles This video was made possible by CuriosityStream. Watch thousands of documentaries free for a month using the link in the description. In 1973, a new kind of jet lands in America. It's called... an Airbus, and it's more efficient and technically advanced than any airliner before it. “Well I think it's a very big improvement, you know that the widebody concept is more comfortable for passengers… In an effort to impress airlines, Airbus sends its new jet to nearly every corner of the world. But few believe this plane has a future. The odd European airliner and Airbus itself are unproven and many doubt that the company will even survive the next few years. Because it's one thing to build a new airliner, and another altogether to take on American giants like Boeing. In the 1950s, Europe introduced jet travel to the world. But whatever lead they may have had in civil aviation was quickly lost. Because by the mid-1960s, the world was flying American. As global demand for long range jets skyrocketed, industry giants like Boeing and McDonnell Douglas seemed virtually unstoppable. By the 1960s, the Americans were building over eighty percent of the world's airliners. In Europe, once iconic aircraft builders struggled. Because none had the scale or resources to compete directly with the Amercians, leaving each to more or less build aircraft for their own countries. And that meant Europe's manufacturers simply weren't selling enough planes to stay competitive. But the solution to Europe's problems was already taking shape in the Concorde. Not the plane, but the way it was being developed; by working together. Concorde was the most ambitious civil aviation project of century, and by teaming up, the French and British achieved what neither could have done alone. But Concorde was largely a politically-motivated project, and it wasn't going to save Europe's aviation industry. Because by the end of the 1960s, cheaper, not faster, was the name of the game. And with air travel booming, what airlines really needed was an efficient jet to move passengers on shorter routes. A large 'people mover', which was already being referred to as an 'air-bus'. Europe's aircraft builders had already sketched concepts for air-buses. But none had ever built a large airliner. Te risks were huge and resources thin. So like the Concorde program, the only way forward was to work together. But this time, on a much larger scale. In 1967, France, Britain and West Germany kicked off the project. And they were soon joined by other European nations. Manufacturers in each country would leverage their expertise. The Germans would build the fuselage. The French would engineer the cockpit and control systems. The wings would be developed by the British and the control surfaces by the Dutch, while Spain would handle the tailplane. It was cooperation on an unprecedented scale. But to compete, the newly formed consortium would also have to build a truly next generation airliner. More efficient and versatile than anything the Americans were building. The first ever Airbus would be a plane that airlines couldn't afford to ignore. Because the A300 would simultaneously haul more passengers and cargo, thanks to its widebody configuration and raised cabin floor. A supercritical wing would improve efficiency and allow it to out-climb any other airliner. And the A300 would use composite materials in it's construction. The first ever on an airliner. And feature a host of new automation and safety features. But what really set the Airbus apart were the engines. There were just two of them, when every other American jet of this size had three or four. It meant the A300 would be inherently more efficient and easier to maintain. And to get the A300 built, Airbus pulled off an extraordinary feat of logistics. With Europe's manufacturers scattered across the continent, components would have to be shipped by land, sea and air. Often from more than a thousand kilometers away, arriving just in time for final assembly. But by the time the first Airbus debuted, the challenge wasn't building the plane, it was getting airlines to buy it. Because, Airbus had only sold a handful of jets. The new company and its twin engine widebody were unproven. And nowhere was the skepticism more intense than in America, where foreign products were not only seen as bad investments, but bad publicity. So, in a bold move, Airbus decided that the best way to convince airlines, was to have the plane prove itself. In 1973, Airbus sent an A300 directly to the Americas. On board were a slick sales team, engineers and tonnes of the finest champagne available. Over the next six weeks the plane embarked on an unprecedented sales tour. Performing nearly forty demonstration flights for dozens of Airlines. “Well I think it's a very big improvement, you know that the widebody concept is more comfortable for passengers. And we are offering now to the medium-range passenger, the same comfort that they can reach in the long-range wide-body” And if there were any doubts that Airbus was determined to break into the American market , the A300 had been designed using imperial units, not Europe's metric system. The operating language wasn't French or German, it was English. And powering the A300 were American built General Electric Turbofans. In fact, one third of the aircraft's value was made up of American made components This plane should've impressed American Airline execs. It didn't. All the demonstration flights in the world couldn't change the fact that many doubted Airbus's future. A Boeing Vice president dismissed the A300 as a typical government program, predicting that Airbus would only sell a dozen or so planes before going out of business. And it wasn't a far fetched prediction. Between December 1975 and May of 1977, Airbus couldn't sell a single jet. A global recession and oil crisis ground the company's sales effort to a standstill. Completed A300s sat unsold and there were calls to stop production altogether. It was starting to look like the entire Airbus initiative had failed. “The A300 is our biggest new investment. It's quiet, fuel-efficient, and specious. But if our crew doesn't make you feel comfortable, it won't what plane you fly. I fly Eastern…” In probably the sweetest deal in airline history, Airbus gave away four of it A300's for free. In 1977, America's Eastern Airlines was allowed to try the jets at no cost for six months. The move... was nothing short of genius. Because the A300 quickly proved to be more reliable, easier to maintain and at least twenty percent more efficient than anything in Eastern's fleet. Thoroughly impressed with the A300's performance, and spurred by Airbus's deal-making Eastern Airlines ordered 23 jets at a cost of $778 million. The single largest American order for foreign aircraft in history. Airbus's gamble paid off. With a major American Airline operating the A300, Airbus earned credibility and the plane earned a reputation for it's high performance standards and reliability. And in 1977, the A300 became the first twin-engine airliner allowed to fly beyond the FAA's decades-old 60 minute ETOPs rule. The extension increased the A300's versatility, opening up a new market for longer range versions of the jet. And with an improving global economy in the late 1970s, Airbus's efficient jet finally caught on. By the 1980s, hundreds of orders had been placed from around the world. The A300's innovations would go on to influence a new generation of airliners, and it's twin-engine configuration would soon become the standard. But for Airbus, the A300 was more than just an airliner. With multinational partnerships, a sophisticated supply chain and a technology driven design philosophy in place, the groundwork was now set for the company's meteoric rise. Airbus changed the landscape of aviation forever, but if you're interested in learning about what comes next. What transportation might look like in the next 20 to 30 years, check out 'Dream the Future'. An incredible nineteen-part series examining how technology will revolutionize the way we live. You can watch it exclusively on CuriosityStream, a streaming service with over two thousand four hundred documentaries and non-fiction titles by some of the best filmmakers in the world. From history and nature to engineering and design, CuriosityStream lets you take a deeper dive into fascinating topics. 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