Frenchman Roger Béteille, the driving force behind Airbus’s first commercial aircraft the A300B, died on June 14 2019. He was 97.
Airbus said in a statement on Tuesday (European time) it was saddened at the passing of one of the founding fathers of the company.
Béteille was appointed chief engineer for the A300, which was formally launched in 1969, when working Sud-Aviation.
He then worked on a smaller model that would eventually be known as the A300B.
The Airbus statement noted Béteille and Felix Kracht – Airbus’s first production director – established the company’s European production system as part of the work for the A300B that “still defines the company today”.
“I wanted to use all the available talents and capacities to their utmost without worrying about the colour of the flag or what language was spoken,” Béteille said at the time.
Tuesday’s statement also noted it was Béteille that pushed for the Airbus Industrie grouping of economic interests to be headquartered in Toulouse as it was being set up in 1970.
More than a decade later, Béteille fulfilled his ambition for Airbus to be more than a one-aircraft family when he launched the A320.
“Roger Béteille was instrumental in developing its fly-by-wire (FBW) controls, with increased flight safety and wider fuselage, all of which were key to its huge commercial success,” the Airbus statement said.
“Fly-by-wire also enabled the start of cockpit commonality and cross-crew qualification for pilots across Airbus aircraft.”
Béteille was born in Aveyron, France in 1921 and studied at Supaéro in Toulouse.
He joined France’s SNCASE, which later became Sud Aviation, in 1943.
His other achievements included being part of the flight test team for the Caravelle’s first flight.
Roger Béteille at Airbus
- 1967: Appointed Airbus A300 Chief Engineer at Sud-Aviation for the French side of the project. His team consists of three people: himself, a fellow engineer and a secretary.
- 1969: Formal go-ahead for the Airbus A300B programme.
- 1970: After the creation of Airbus Industrie, he becomes senior vice president, Engineering
- 1972: First flight of A300B.
- 1975: Appointed General Manager of Airbus Industrie.
- 1977: Breakthrough in the US with the first A300 commitment to buy from Eastern Airlines.
- 1978: Launch of A310: the first step in realising Roger Béteille’s vision of an Airbus family.
- 1984: Achieves launch of A320, a totally new single aisle aircraft with wider fuselage and fly-by-wire flight controls.
- 1985: Retires from Airbus Industrie as company President.
- 2012: The A350 XWB final assembly line in Toulouse is named in his honour.