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Airbus A320 family

The Airbus A320 family of short- to medium-range commercial passenger airliners are manufactured by Airbus. 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 3,500 aircraft of the A320 family built, it is the second best-selling jet airliner family of all time after the family's primary competition, the Boeing 737.

Development

Background

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.

Production

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 Power8 organization plan begun under ex-CEO Christian Streiff.

The A320 family has the highest production rate ever for any commercial airliner. In response to continuing strong demand, Airbus continues its steady production ramp-up programme from 30 aircraft per month reached at the end of 2006, to 32 in early 2007, 34 in March 2008, 36 in December 2008, 38 in mid 2009 and 40 by the end of 2009. Tianjin production is included in these numbers.

Design

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 (outside diameter, compared to in the Boeing 737 and 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.

Two suppliers provide turbofan engines for the A320 series: CFM International with their CFM56, and International Aero Engines, offering the V2500.

Technology

Technology used in the A320 includes:

  • The first fully digital fly-by-wire flight control system in a civil airliner.
  • Fully glass cockpit rather than the hybrid versions found in aircraft such as the A310, Boeing 757 and Boeing 767.
  • The first narrow body airliner with a significant amount of the structure made from composites.
  • The ECAM (Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitoring) concept, which is included in all Airbus aircraft produced after the A320. This system constantly displays information concerning the aircraft's engines, as well as other key systems such as flight controls, pneumatics and hydraulics, to the pilots on the two LCD displays in the centre of the flightdeck. ECAM also provides automatic warning of system failures and displays an electronic checklist to assist in handling the failure.
  • Airbus recently started installing LCD (liquid crystal display) units in the flight deck of its new A318, A319, A320, and A321 flight decks instead of the original CRT (cathode ray tube) displays. These include the main displays and the backup artificial horizon, which was an analogue display prior to this. LCDs weigh less and produce less heat than CRT displays, this change saves around 50 kilos on the plane's total weight
  • Even though the A320 family is technologically advanced, some of the computers at the heart of the fly-by-wire system are built around CPUs roughly equivalent to the Intel 8086. While these chips may not offer anywhere near the performance of modern processors, especially on Personal Computers or servers, they are incredibly stable and reliable.

New winglets

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, which was fitted with both the first type and second type of winglets. JetBlue Airways provided the second aircraft, retrofitted by Airbus with both types 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.

Operational service

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).

Competition

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 3,594 A318/A319/A320/A321s since its certification/first delivery in early 1988, with another 2,703 on firm order (31 August 2008). Boeing has shipped 5,720 737s since late 1967 with a further 2,191 on firm order (30 April 2008). Based on these figures Airbus delivered on average 174 A320 series aircraft per annum, compared to 143 for Boeing's 737.

Replacement aircraft

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.

Variants

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.

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.

A320

The A320 series has two variants, the A320-100 and A320-200. The A320-200 is the definitive version as 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) and are the only A320s that lack the distinctive wingtip fences. 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.

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.

A319

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. The A320 and A319 are the most popular variants of the A320 family. In 2003 easyJet took delivery of A319s with smaller galleys (as easyJet does not serve meals) 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 has been introduced upon request by Steven Udvar-Hazy.

With jet fuel prices rising dramatically, Northwest Airlines is replacing McDonnell Douglas DC-9 aircraft it has had in service for decades, because the A319 is 27% more fuel efficient than the DC-9.

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.

It is powered by the same types of engine as the A320. JAA certification and service entry, with Swissair, took place in April 1996.

A319CJ

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.

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, and Malaysia.

The aircraft seats up to 39 passengers but may be outfitted by the customers into any configuration. Daimler AG 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.

A319LR

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 an ice runway near 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).

A321

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 March 11 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 pax transcontinental US range. This is achieved through higher thrust V2533-A5 or CFM56-5B3 engines and minor structural strengthening and 2900 litres (766US gal/638Imp gal) greater fuel capacity with the installation of an ACT additional centre tank.

The A321-200 first flew from Daimler Benz (later DaimlerChrysler, now Daimler AG) Aerospace's Hamburg facilities in December 1996.

A318

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-Tel Aviv, London-New York 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 two CFM56-5 or Pratt & Whitney PW6000 with thrust ranges between 21,600 to 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 $39 to $45 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:

  • A new touchscreen LCD panel at the flight attendants' stations in the cabin, to simplify access to environmental and communications controls
  • New cabin lighting based on LED light sources, instead of halogen and fluorescent bulbs
  • Electrically powered backup braking systems, improving upon the older design using reserve hydraulic pressure
  • The use of laser beam welding during construction, used to fasten floor stringers to the lower fuselage shell. Laser welding eliminates the need for rivets to secure the joint, which saves weight, and is faster, saving on assembly time.

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 (May 14, 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 to New York Kennedy Airport. They will be configured in all business class seating.

A318 Elite

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 (7400 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.

Freighter

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.

A320 Enhanced

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, weight savings and a new cabin.

Deliveries

By the end of September 2008 a total of 6320 aircraft of the A320 family have been ordered and 3621 delivered.

Type 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 1990 1989 1988
A318 11 17 8 9 10 8
A319 69 105 137 142 87 72 85 89 112 88 53 47 18
A320 151 194 164 121 101 119 116 119 101 101 80 58 38 34 48 71 111 119 58 58 16
A321 53 51 30 17 35 33 35 49 28 33 35 22 16 22 16
Total 284 367 339 289 233 232 236 257 241 222 168 127 72 56 64 71 111 119 58 58 16

List of Airbus A320 orders and deliveries

Accidents and incidents

(As of 30 May, 2008 for the whole A320 family)

Specifications

Measurement A318-100 A319-100 A320-200 A321-200
Cockpit crew Two
Seating capacity 117 (1-class)
100 (2-class)
156 (1-class)
124 (2-class)
180 (1-class)
148 (2-class)
220 (1-class)
185 (2-class)
Length 31.45 m (103 ft 2 in) 33.84 m (111 ft) 37.57 m (123 ft) 44.51 m (146 ft)
Wingspan 34.10 m (111 ft 10 in)
Wing Sweepback 25°
Height 12.56 m (41 ft 2 in) 11.76 m (38 ft 7 in)
Cabin Width 3.70 m (12 ft 1 in)
Fuselage Width 3.95 m. (13 ft)
Typical empty weight 39,300 kg 40,600 kg 42,400 kg 48,200 kg
Maximum take-off weight 68,000 kg (149,900 lb) 75,500 kg (166,500 lb) 77,000 kg (169,000 lb) 93,500 kg (206,100 lb)
Cruising speed Mach .78
Max. speed Mach .82
Take off run at MTOW 1,355 m (4,446 ft) 1,950 m (6,398 ft) 2,090 m (6,857 ft) 2,180 m (7,152 ft)
Range fully loaded 5,950 km or 6,800 km or 5,700 km or 5,600 km or
Max. fuel capacity 23,860 litres or 6,300 US gal 29,840 litres or 7,885 US gal 29,680 liters or 7,842 US gal
Service Ceiling
Engines 2 × PW6122A
2 × CFM56-5
2 × IAE V2500
2 × CFM56-5

Source: Airbus

Engines

Model Date Engines
A318-111 2003 CFM56-5B8/P
A318-112 2003 CFM56-5B9/P
A318-121 2007 PW6122A
A318-122 2007 PW6124A
A319-111 1996 CFM56-5B5 or 5B5/P
A319-112 1997 CFM56-5B6 or 5B6/P or 5B6/2P
A319-113 1997 CFM56-5A4 or 5A4/F
A319-114 1997 CFM56-5A5 or 5A5/F
A319-115 2002 CFM56-5B7 or 5B7/P
A319-131 1997 IAE Model V2522-A5
A319-132 1997 IAE Model V2524-A5
A319-133 2002 IAE Model V2527M-A5
A320-111 1988 CFM56-5A1 or 5A1/F
A320-211 1988 CFM56-5A4 or 5A4/F
A320-212 1990 CFM56-5A3
A320-214 1996 CFM56-5B4 or 5B4/P or 5B4/2P
A320-216 2005 CFM56-5B6
A320-231 1989 IAE Model V2500-A1
A320-232 1993 IAE Model V2527-A5
A320-233 1995 IAE Model V2527E-A5
A321-111 1995 CFM56-5B1 or 5B1/P or 5B1/2P
A321-112 1995 CFM56-5B2 or 5B2/P
A321-131 1995 IAE Model V2350-A5
A321-211 1997 CFM56-5B3 or 5B3/P or 5B3/2P
A321-212 2005 CFM56-5B1 or 5B1/P or 5B1/2P
A321-213 2005 CFM56-5B2 or 5B2/P
A321-231 1997 IAE Model V2533-A5
A321-232 2005 IAE Model V2350-A5

See also

References

External links

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