The Airbus A320 family of short- to medium-range commercial passenger airliners are manufactured by Airbus and are the only narrowbody in their product line. Family members include the A318, A319, A320, and A321, as well as the ACJ business jet.
First delivered in 1988, the A320 pioneered the use of digital fly-by-wire flight control systems in a commercial aircraft. With more than 3,800 aircraft of the A320 family built, it is the second best-selling jet airliner family of all time after its primary competition, the Boeing 737.
After the initial success of the A300, Airbus began developing a new model aimed at replacing the world's most popular aircraft at the time, the Boeing 727. The new Airbus would be of the same size, yet offer improved operating economics and various passenger capacities. The digital technology in the A320 would herald a two-generation technological leap over the all-analogue Boeing 727 and be a generation ahead of the Boeing 737-300/-400/-500 series. The A320 was targeted at the global fleet replacement requirements for the 727 and early variants of the 737.
After the oil price rises of the 1970s, Airbus needed to minimise the trip fuel costs of the A320. To that end, Airbus incorporated advanced features including fly-by-wire flight control, composite primary structures, centre-of-gravity control using fuel, glass cockpit (EFIS) and a two-person flight deck. The end result was that the A320 consumes 50% less fuel than the 727. According to a study cited by the Stockholm Environmental Institute, the A320 burns 11,608 kilograms of jet fuel flying between Los Angeles and New York City, which is about 77.4 kilograms per passenger in an A320 with 150 seats.
Bernard Ziegler was the initiator of the aircraft's then revolutionary fly-by-wire flight controls with sidestick cockpit controller and full glass cockpit. He successfully convinced aviation authorities of the concept's validity.
Airbus requires about eight months to build an A320 jetliner. Components from various Airbus plants are transported to the final assembly plant at Hamburg Finkenwerder for the A318/A319/A320/A321 and to Toulouse Blagnac for the A320. Nearly all assemblies are moved using Airbus' A300-600ST 'Beluga' outsized transporters.
The Airbus A320s sold to China to be delivered between 2009 and 2012 will be assembled in the People's Republic of China in Tianjin. Airbus intends to relocate Toulouse A320 final assembly activity to Hamburg as part of its Power organization plan begun under ex-CEO Christian Streiff.
The A320 family production rate in 2008 was slightly more than 32 aircraft per month. Current EADS ceo Louis Gallois stated in May 2007 that Airbus would be producing 40 narrowbodies per month by the end of 2009, including proposed Tianjin, China-assembled aircraft. However, 2008 marked the high point to date in Airbus narrowbody manufacture (32 aircraft/month), a rate which the EADS division hopes to maintain in 2009 and which is fully 20% below the full Airbus forecast less than two years earlier.
The Airbus A320 family are low-wing cantilever monoplanes with a conventional tail unit with a single fin and rudder. They have a retractable tricycle landing gear and are powered by two wing mounted turbofan engines.
Compared to other airliners of the same class, the A320 features a wider single-aisle cabin of 155.5 inches (3.95 m) outside diameter, compared to 148 inches (3.8 m) in the Boeing 737 and 131.6 inches (3.34 m) in the Boeing 717, and larger overhead bins, along with fly-by-wire technology. In addition, the aircraft has a spacious cargo hold equipped with large doors to assist in expedient loading and unloading of goods.
The A320 features a computerized on-board maintenance system. With the exception of the very earliest A320s, most can be upgraded to the latest avionics standards, keeping the aircraft advanced even after two decades in service.
The flight deck is equipped with EFIS with side stick controllers. At the time of the aircraft's introduction, the behavior of the fly-by-wire system (equipped with full flight envelope protection) was a new experience for many pilots.
Three suppliers provide turbofan engines for the A320 series: CFM International with their CFM56, International Aero Engines, offering the V2500 and Pratt & Whitney whose PW6000 engines are only available for the A318 variant.
Technology used in the A320 includes:
In 2006, Airbus tested three styles of winglet, intended to counteract the wing’s induced drag and wingtip vortices more effectively than the previous wingtip fence. Adoption of the new winglets was expected to reduce fuel consumption by one to two percent. The first design type to be tested was developed by Airbus and was based on work done by the AWIATOR program. The second type of winglet used a more blended design and was created by Winglet Technology LLC, a company based in Wichita, Kansas as well as the third type.
Two aircraft were used in the flight test evaluation campaign, the prototype A320 F-WWBA which had been retained by Airbus for testing and new F-WWDL which later delivered to JetBlue Airways and registrated as N636JB, which was all fitted with both of the first type and the second type of winglets.
Despite the anticipated efficiency gains and development work, Airbus announced that the new winglets will not be offered to customers, claiming that the weight of the modifications required would negate any aerodynamic benefits. In addition, the change in forces from winglets add additional stress to the wing which would require long-term study to determine if structural integrity is compromised.
On 17 December 2008, Airbus announced it was to begin flight testing a new Blended Winglet design developed by Aviation Partners as part of an A320 modernization program. The aircraft used for the test program is MSN001 (F-WWBA) the original A320 prototype airframe, powered by the CFM56 engine.
The JAA issued the type certificate for the A320 on 26 February 1988. After entering the market in March 1988 with Air France, Airbus expanded the A320 family rapidly, launching the 185-seat A321 in 1989 (first delivered in 1994), the 124-seat A319 in 1993 (first delivered in 1996), and the 107-seat A318 in 1999 (first delivered in 2003).
The A320 family was developed to compete against the Boeing 737 Classics (-300/-400/-500) and the McDonnell Douglas MD-80/90 series, and has since faced challenges from the Boeing 737 Next-Generation (-600/-700/-800/-900) and the Boeing 717 during its two decades in service. As of September 2008, the competitors to the A320 family are the Boeing 737 Next Generation, Bombardier's Cseries jet to the A318/A319 and Embraer's E-195 jet to the A318
Airbus has shipped 3,723 A318/A319/A320/A321s since its certification/first delivery in early 1988, with another 2,598 on firm order (31 December 2008). Boeing has shipped 6,000 737s since late 1967, with 4,404 of those deliveries since 1988, and has a further 2,270 on firm order (31 December 2008).Based on figures since 1988 when they first entered direct competition, Airbus delivered on average 177 A320 series aircraft per annum, while on average 209 Boeing 737s were delivered.
Airbus is studying a replacement for the A320 series, tentatively dubbed NSR, for "New Short-Range aircraft.
Airbus is considering partnering with Embraer for a replacement aircraft for the A320 series. In July 2007 it was reported that it may be built in "8-9 years" or "2017 or later".
The expected follow-on aircraft to replace the A320 is named A30X. Airbus North America President Barry Eccleston states that the earliest the aircraft will be available is 2017.
The A320 has given rise to a family of aircraft which share a common design but are slightly smaller (the A319), significantly smaller (the A318), or slightly larger (the A321). Passenger capacity ranges from 100 to 220. They compete with the Boeing 737, 757-200, and 717. All have the same pilot type-rating. Today all variants are available as corporate-jet.
Technically, the name "A320" only refers to the original mid-sized aircraft, but it is often informally used to indicate any of the A318/A319/A320/A321 family. All variants are able to be ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards) certified.
The A320 series has two variants, the A320-100 and A320-200. Only 21 A320-100s were ever produced; these aircraft, the first to be manufactured, were delivered only to Air Inter (an airline later acquired by Air France) and British Airways (as a result of an order from British Caledonian Airways made prior to its acquisition by British Airways). The A320-200 features wingtip fences and increased fuel capacity over the A320-100 for increased range; other than that differences are minimal. The last 5 A320-100 aircraft, operated by British Airways, were disposed of at the end of 2007. JetBlue has the largest fleet of A320 aircraft in the world.
Typical range with 150 passengers for the A320-200 is about 2,900 nautical miles (5,400 km). It is powered by two CFMI CFM56-5 or IAE V2500 with thrust ratings between 25,500 to 27,000 pounds force (113 kN to 120 kN).
The direct Boeing competitor is the 737-800.
The A319 is a shortened, minimum change version of the A320. With virtually the same fuel capacity as the A320-200, and fewer passengers, the range with 124 passengers in a two-class configuration extends to 3,600 nautical miles (6,900 km), the highest in its class. A319s are among the most popular variants of the A320 family. In 2003 easyJet took delivery of A319s with smaller galleys (as EasyJet do not serve meals on some of their shorter flights) and 156 seats in a single class configuration. To satisfy evacuation regulations, additional over-wing exits were included.
According to the New York Times the A319 was introduced at the request of Steven Udvar-Hazy.
The direct Boeing competitor is the 737-700.
The large EasyJet order of 120 A319s plus 120 options was among the biggest aircraft sales deals in recent times, rivaled only by chief competitor Ryanair's order for Boeing 737 aircraft.
This is the corporate jet version of the A319. It incorporates extra fuel tanks which are installed in the cargo compartment giving a range of 6,500 nautical miles (12,000 km). Upon resale the aircraft can be reconfigured as a standard A319 by removing its extra tanks, thus maximizing its resale value. It is also known as the ACJ, or Airbus Corporate Jet. Producer is Airbus Executive and Private Aviation, it is a part of Airbus S.A.S., an EADS company.
The A319CJ is used by the Escadron de transport, d'entraînement et de calibrage which is in charge of transportation for France's officials and was also ordered by the Flugbereitschaft of the Luftwaffe for transportation of Germany's officials. Since 2003, an ACJ is the main presidential aircraft of Brazil, Venezuela, Thailand, Czech Republic, Turkey and Malaysia.
The aircraft seats up to 39 passengers but may be outfitted by the customers into any configuration. DC Aviation and Reliance Industries are among its users. The A319CJ competes with other corporate jets such as the Gulfstream V, the Boeing 737-700 based Boeing Business Jet (BBJ), and Bombardier's Global Express. It is powered by the same engine types as the A320.
The A319LR is a standard A319 that incorporates some features and additional fuel tanks of the A319CJ. Airbus offers it in a standard airline layout, although many customers operate it in an all-business class layout with 48 seats, specifically tailored for exclusive business class services on intercontinental routes. The A319LR, compared to the A319CJ, has four auxiliary fuel tanks instead of six. Typical range is 4,500 nautical miles (8,300 km).
Lufthansa, KLM, Swiss International and Air France operate a premium business service between Europe and the USA using a fleet of A319LRs operated by the French Aero Services and the Swiss PrivatAir. However, Qatar Airways fit their A319LRs with standard seatings with 110 seats. Air France operates the A319LR in a reduced density layout and flies it to the Middle East and central Asia.
The Australian Antarctic Division uses an A319-115LR aircraft, operated on their behalf by Skytraders, to provide an intercontinental link from Hobart, in Tasmania, to the Wilkins blue ice runway approximately 70 km from their research station at Casey on the Antarctic continent. Each flight carries up to 40 passengers and up to 6 tonnes of cargo.
The closest Boeing equivalent is the 737-700ER which has a maximum range of 5,510 nautical miles (10,200 km).
The A321 is a minimum change stretch of the A320.
The A321 program was launched in November 1989 and the first development aircraft first flew on 11 March 1993. European certification was awarded in December that year.
Compared with the A320 the A321's major change is the stretched fuselage, with forward and rear fuselage plugs totalling 6.93m (22ft 9in) (front plug immediately forward of wing 4.27m/14ft, rear plug directly behind the wing 2.67m/8ft 9in).
Other changes include strengthening of the undercarriage to cope with the higher weights, more powerful engines, a simplified and refined fuel system and larger tires for better braking. A slightly modified wing with double slotted flaps and modifications to the flight controls allows the A321's handling characteristics to closely resemble the A320's. The A321 features an identical flightdeck to that on the A319 and A320, and shares the same type rating as the smaller two aircraft.
The basic A321-100 features a reduction in range compared to the A320 as extra fuel tankage was not added to the initial design to compensate for the extra weight. To overcome this Airbus launched the longer range, heavier A321-200 development in 1995 which has a full-passenger transcontinental US range. This is achieved through higher thrust engines (V2533-A5 or CFM56-5B3), minor structural strengthening, and greater fuel capacity with the installation of one, or optionally two 2,900 litre (766US gal/638Imp gal) additional centre fuel tanks.
The A321-200 first flew from Daimler Benz (later DaimlerChrysler, now Daimler AG) Aerospace's Hamburg facilities in December 1996.
The A318, also known as the "Mini-Airbus" or "baby bus", is the smallest member of the A320 family, and the smallest Airbus of any kind. It originated from the AVIC and Airbus Industrie Asia cooperation program AE31X. During development, it was known as the "A319M3," thus indicating its history as a direct derivative of the A319. "M3" indicates "minus three fuselage frames." The aircraft is six metres shorter and 14 tonnes lighter than the A320. To compensate for the reduced moment arm it has a larger vertical stabilizer, making it 80 centimetres taller than the other A320 variants. Pilots who are trained on the other variants may fly the A318 with no further certification, since it features the same type rating as its sister aircraft.
The A318 has a passenger capacity of 109 in a two-class configuration. It is intended to replace early Boeing 737 and Douglas DC-9 models, though it is also a rival to the 737-600. Boeing also offered their 717 aircraft as a competitor, although it was suitable primarily for regional routes and did not have the A318's range capabilities.
The A318 is available with a variety of different maximum take-off weights (MTOW) ranging from a 59 tonne, 2,750 km (1,500 nautical mile) base model to a 68 tonne, 6,000 km (3,240 nautical mile) version. The lower MTOW enables it to operate regional routes economically whilst sacrificing range and the higher MTOW allows it to complement other members of the A320 family on marginal routes. The lighter weight of the A318 gives it an operating range 10% greater than the A320, allowing it to serve some routes that the A320 would be unable to: London-New York, Perth-Auckland and Singapore-Tokyo, for instance. Its main use for airlines, however, is on short, low-density hops between medium cities.
During the design process, the A318 ran into several problems. The first one was the decline in demand for new aircraft following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Another one was the new Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines, which burned more fuel than expected: by the time CFMI had a more efficient engine ready for market, many A318 customers had already backed out, including Air China and British Airways. America West Airlines, which had selected the Pratt & Whitney engines, amended its A318 orders, opting instead for A319 or A320 aircraft. Trans World Airlines canceled a significant order for 50 A318 after being acquired by American Airlines, which does not operate any A320 family aircraft (although neither did TWA when the order was originally placed). While Airbus was hoping to market the A318 as a regional jet alternative, laws in both the U.S. and Europe have kept it in the same class as larger aircraft for calculating landing fees and the like, so regional operators have avoided it.
It is powered by 2 CFM56-5 or Pratt & Whitney PW6000 engines with thrust ranges between 21,600 to 23,800 lb (10,800 kg)f (96 to 106 kN) thrust. Launch customers Frontier Airlines and Air France took deliveries in 2003, with Frontier receiving their models in July of that year. The price of an A318 ranges from $56 to $62 million , and operating costs are around $3,000 for a 500 nm (926 km) flight.
While designing the A318, Airbus included a number of technology upgrades, many of which have been integrated into the rest of the A320 family. Some are also finding their way to the A380 jumbo aircraft. These upgrades include:
Orders for the A318 have been quite slow, but about 50% better than for its direct competitor the B737-600. Airbus had received 100 orders (14 May 2007) for this model compared to 69 for the B737-600. The sales pace has been influenced by the strong sales of the Bombardier CRJ900 and Embraer E-Jets series. Notable A318 customers were Air France, 18; Frontier Airlines, 10 (+ 1 order); LAN Chile, 20 orders; and Mexicana, 10 orders. In October 2006 an A318 was successfully tested at London City Airport for steep approach compatibility, which will allow operators to serve airports constrained by noise restrictions, tall buildings or difficult terrain.. British Airways has ordered two A318 aircraft to operate from London City Airport via a refuelling stop at Shannon to New York Kennedy Airport. They will be configured in all business class seating.
On 10 November 2005 Airbus announced the A318 Elite. The Airbus A318 Elite is aimed at the medium-range market for flights of up to 4,000 nm (7,400 km) range, with a choice of two cabin layouts seating up to 14 and 18 passengers, and will be powered by CFM engines. Comlux Aviation became the launch customer by ordering three A318 Elite aircraft.
A programme to convert A320 and A321 aircraft into freighters is being set up by Airbus Freighter Conversion GmbH. Airframes will be converted by EADS EFW in Dresden, Germany, and Zhukovsky, Russia. The launch customer AerCap signed a firm contract on 16 July 2008 to convert 30 of AerCap’s passenger A320/A321s into A320/A321P2F (passenger to freighter). The first aircraft will be ready in 2011 and serial production is scheduled to begin in early 2012.On February 7, 2009, Airbus announced that the technical definition for the P2F version had been frozen, and reaffirmed the 2012 entry into service. Also announced were technical details, including 21-28 metric tonnes of payload (depending on variant), a 121-inch (3.1 m) aft cargo door and confirmation that the conversion will have ETOPS, allowing significantly further ranges than any current single-aisled freighter.
A320 Enhanced (or A320E) is the working title for an improved version of the A320, which is planned to be delivered in 2009. The improvements will incorporate engine improvements, an aerodynamic tidy-up with large curved winglets, weight savings and a new cabin.
By the end of May 2009 a total of 6,321 aircraft of the A320 family have been ordered and 3,893 delivered.
The following chart shows the number of aircraft, by type, delivered to customers in a particular year. The bottom row is the total yearly production of all A320 family aircraft. 2009 data is incomplete.
Accidents and incidents
For the entire A320 family there have been 20 hull-loss Accidents with a total of 631 fatalities as of 15 January 2009. Other occurrences for the A320 include 33 non-fatal incidents such as engine failure, APU fire, runway excursion, and minor collision near gate. There have been 50 incidents of glass-cockpit blackout. There have also been seven incidents of nose gear malfunction, including JetBlue Airways Flight 292.
Published - July 2009
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