After requests for a smaller variant of the Airbus A300B initiated by Lufthansa and Swissair, Airbus started development of the A300B10 in Summer 1978: a shortened A300B fuselage (by 7 m), redesigned wings with a smaller area and EFIS-cockpit for a crew of two pilots.
The A310 first was planned with a capacity of 210 passengers, which was later increased up to 280 seats.
On April 3, 1982 the first A310 (F-WZLH / HB-IPE, MSN 162) made its maiden flight at the Airbus plant in Toulouse. Together with the first A310 build for Lufthansa (F-WZLJ, became D-AICA , MSN 191) and Air France (F-WZLI / F-GEMF, MSN 172) , the Swissair example was used for the crew training programme. The first operational A310 were delivered to Swissair and Lufthansa (03/83), KLM (04/83) and Kuwait Airways (09/83). Swissair operated the first A310 (MSN 162) until 1994, when it was handed over to Air Liberté and later sold to FedEx, which removed it from service on 26.05.2015.
Only two main variants of the A310 were build: series 200 and 300. The series 300 was the long-range version of the A310-200 with additional tailplane fueltanks, a maximal take-off weight of 164 tonnes and wingtip fences.
Depending on the engine type used, Airbus allocated a three-digit code for each version. A310-203 and -204 were powered by GE CF6-80A3 / CF6-80C2 turbofans, series 221 and 222 had the Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7R engines. Eventually the Rolls Royce RB 211-525B4 engines were planned for the A310-240, but this version never was build.
The same system goes for the A310-300: the designations 304, 307 and 308 were allocated to the General Electric CF6-80C2 turbofans, while the series 322, 324 and 325 were powered by Pratt & Whitney engines, either JT9D-7R or PW 4152 / PW4156. ETOPS modifications were allocated with the letters ET. Airbus A310 serialnumbers beginning with s/n 162, because the A310 comes off the same line as the A300.
The demand for the type slowed down in the 1990s and production ended with delivery of the 255th and last produced example, delivered to Uzbekistan Airways as UK-31003 in June 1998. The manufacturer after nine years officially closed the production of the A310 in 2007.
From 1995 on, U.S. cargo carrier FedEx bought 49 examples of A310 to modernize and increase its worldwide cargo fleet. By August 2015 nine A310-200 were still in use with Fedex. On May 26, 2015 the first A310 ever build (MSN 162, ex HB-IPE, N450FE) was withdrawn from use and put into storage, followed by N410FE, ex D-AICM MSN 356) on 01 August 2015.
Numbers of active A310 decreased from 124 examples in Summer 2014 to 47 in December 2020.