updated 3/7/2006 6:34:48 PM ET 2006-03-07T23:34:48

Airbus announced the retirement of its first-ever airliner Tuesday.

The France-based aircraft maker, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., said the last model from its wide-bodied A300/A310 family will roll off the production line in July 2007.

The A300, launched in May 1969, entered service with Air France five years later. The A310, launched in 1978, was the first to use TV-style displays in the cockpit.

But the much newer A330/A340 jets now account for most of Airbus’ wide-bodied plane sales. Airbus took just seven orders for A300/A310 models last year and none in the first two months of this year, the company said Tuesday.

Airbus also said Tuesday it had received orders for a total of 71 jets in January and February, compared with U.S. rival Boeing Co.’s 65.

Airbus, like Boeing, is ramping up production to cope with a record glut of orders last year and expects to deliver more than 400 aircraft in 2006, up from 378 in 2005. New positions will be found for the 150 Airbus staff currently working on the A300/A310 production line, the company said.

“It is in Airbus’ best business interest to optimize the use of its resources at this time,” CEO Gustav Humbert said in a statement.

Airbus said it plans to offer new freighter versions of current aircraft when the A300/A310 is discontinued. It still has A300 freighter orders to satisfy from FedEx Corp., UPS Inc. and Galaxy Airlines.

Harald Liberge-Dondoux, aerospace analyst at Aurel Leven in Paris, said the decision to close the A300-310 production line would help free up capacity for the new A350, due to enter service in 2010 — two years after the rival Boeing 787.

EADS is expected to give an update on the Airbus order and delivery outlook when it releases its 2005 earnings on Wednesday.

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