* Airbus Industries, a European multinational collaboration, arose from the late 1960s develop jetliners that could compete on an equal basis with US giant Boeing. The first Airbus effort was the "A300", a double-aisle "widebody" jet, that led to the short "A310" and stretched "A330 / A340" derivatives. Having launched the A300 widebody, Airbus then went on to develop a single-aisle "narrowbody" jetliner, which emerged as the "A320", leading to the short "A319" and "A318", and stretched "A321".
From the late 1990s, Airbus further diversified to come up with the "A380" double-deck "superjumbo" jetliner. The company is now introducing the advanced-technology "A350" to replace the A300 series. This document provides a history and description of the A320 series, the A380, and the A350.
* Airbus Industries arose in the late 1960s and the early 1970s as a multinational European collaboration to develop jetliners that could compete on an equal basis with US giant Boeing -- at the time the overwhelmingly dominant player in the jetliner business. The first Airbus effort was the "A300", a double-aisle "widebody" jet, that proved commercially successful after an initial period of difficulty. The A300 led to the short "A310" and stretched "A330 / A340" derivatives.
From early on, Airbus also wanted to build a narrow-body / single-aisle (SA) series of jetliners, primarily to compete with the US Douglas DC-9 and in particular Boeing 737, following in the path of the relatively successful British BAC One-Eleven. After consideration of a range of preliminary design concepts for the SA, the program to develop the initial narrow-body jetliner, the "A320", was formally launched in 1984, with first flight on 22 February 1987, and first deliveries the next year. Air France was the launch customer.
* As it emerged, the A320 was of conventional overall configuration, being a low-wing design, made of aluminum alloy with considerable use of composite materials, featuring all-swept flight surfaces and a fanjet on a pylon under each wing. It had a normal passenger capacity of 150 seats, in a cabin with an internal diameter of 3.7 meters (12 feet 2 inches) -- by intent larger than that of the 737, which had a diameter of 3.45 meters (11 feet 4 inches).
The wings had a sweepback of 25 degrees at quarter-chord, and featured little arrowhead-shaped winglets called "wing fences". Each wing had Fowler flaps in two sections, an outboard aileron, and full-span leading-edge slats in five sections. There were five spoilers ahead of the flaps -- the four outermost were used for roll control, the three inboard were used as speed brakes, and all were used as lift dumpers on landing. In addition, the two outermost spoilers were used with an automatic "load alleviation function (LAF)", along with the ailerons, in which these flight surfaces were tweaked under digital control to smooth out turbulence. Tail arrangement was conventional, with the tailplane being adjustable for flight trim.
Although Airbus considered using "propfan" propulsion on the A320 -- an engine tinkered with in that era, somewhere in between a fanjet with the cowl removed and a turboprop -- the initial powerplants were CFM56-5-A1 turbofans, providing 112.5 kN (1,135 kgp / 25,000 lbf) each. Later, the International Aero Engines (IAE) V2500 was offered as an option, IAE being a collaboration of Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney, Japanese Aero Engines, Fiat, and MTU. The initial variant was the "V2500-A1", with a thrust of 110 kN (11,340 kgp / 25,000 lbf). A V2500 engine nacelle could be recognized by its smooth rear contour, as opposed to the "stepped" contour of the CFM56. An auxiliary power unit (APU) turbine engine in the tail provided ground and engine starting power.
The A320 had tricycle landing gear, with two wheels on each gear assembly -- the steerable nose gear retracting forward, the main gear pivoting inboard from the wings into the fuselage. A typical seating arrangement was 16 seats, four across, in first class, and 132 seats, six across, in economy, with two lavatories in the rear, and one along with a galley in the front. There were passenger / service doors fore and aft, with twin emergency exits over the wing, on each side of the fuselage. There were cargo bays fore and aft of the wings, with a door to each bay on the right side of the fuselage, with a total capacity of seven LD3-type containers or comparable load. Of course, the jetliner was pressurized and climate-conditioned.
AIRBUS A320-200: _____________________ _________________ _______________________ spec metric english _____________________ _________________ _______________________ wingspan 34.1 meters 111 feet 11 inches wing area 122.06 sq_meters 1,320 sq_feet length 37.57 meters 123 feet 3 inches height 11.76 meters 38 feet 7 inches empty weight 42,600 kilograms 93,900 pounds maximum takeoff weight 78,000 kilograms 172,000 pounds max speed at altitude 870 KPH 535 MPH / 465 KT cruise altitude 12,000 meters 39,000 feet range 5,700 kilometers 3,600 MI / 3,100 NMI _____________________ _________________ _______________________
The A320 featured a "glass cockpit" with six displays -- two for each pilot, two shared between them in the center of the console -- and featured a "fly by wire" flight control system (FBW FCS), with pilots using sidestick controllers instead of yokes. FBW meant that a pilot could not take the jetliner out of its envelope under reasonable flight conditions; it also supported the automatic LAF turbulence-handling system.
FBW was controversial, with some in the aviation industry upset at the idea of a computer overriding the pilot, but Airbus saw it had tremendous advantages -- though a minimal manual control scheme was added as a backup. There were a few accidents early on that were suspected to be due to FBW, but investigation showed that they were more the fault of aircrew who expected too much of the system; improved training addressed the issue. The A320 also had an "electronic centralized aircraft monitor (ECAM)" system that kept track of the operating condition of its many subsystems.
Production of elements was distributed over facilities in the various Airbus member nations, redundant production being avoided, with final assembly in Toulouse. Oversized assemblies that could not be ground transported were hauled by bulky cargo freight air transports -- initially a number of rather weary Boeing Stratocruiser / Super Guppy piston machines, which were soon replaced by the A300-600ST Beluga.
* The initial variant of the A320 was the "A320-100", of which only 21 were made, these early machines being distinguished by their lack of wing fences. Production then went on to the "A320-200", with the wing fences, more fuel tankage, and higher maximum takeoff weight (MTO). Indian Airlines obtained a modified set of A320-200 machines with four-wheel main landing gear in a 2x2 bogey configuration, to handle rough fields.BACK_TO_TOP
* Having introduced the A320, Airbus then moved on to a "Stretched A320" derivative with more capacity, with program start in 1988. The A321's primary difference from the A320 were fuselage plugs fore and aft of the wing, which increased the length by 6.94 meters (22 feet 9 inches). MTO weight rose accordingly by about 13%, with fuselage and undercarriage reinforced accordingly. Maximum passenger capacity was 220 seats; another galley and lavatory were added, for a total of two and four respectively. Instead of the two overwing emergency exits, doors were fitted fore and aft of the wing. The wing itself was modified, with double slotted flaps replacing Fowler flaps and a reprofiling that added 4 square meters (50 square feet) of area. Initial engine options included the CFM56-5B and V2500-A5.
Maiden flight of the first A321 prototype was on 11 March 1993, this machine being powered by V2500 turbofans; it was followed by a second with CFM56-5B engines. After some argument between the Germans and the French, final assembly was placed in Hamburg, making the A321 the first production Airbus machine not rolled out in France. Initial delivery of the A321 was in early 1994, to Lufthansa.
The initial "A321-100" variant had the same fuel tankage as the A320-200 and so, due to the greater weight, had less range. In 1995, Airbus launched the "A321-200", with transcontinental range, thanks to one or two optional fuel tanks in the rear hold. The airframe and landing gear were reinforced to handle the higher MTO; uprated V2533-A5 or CFM56-5B3 engines were fitted as well.
* Having stretched the A320, Airbus then went on to shrink it, resulting in the "A319", with the fuselage cut down fore and aft of the wing to reduce length by 3.73 meters (12 feet 3 inches). Typical passenger capacity was 124 seats in a two-class configuration, with galley and lavatories as per the A320. Only one emergency exit was placed over each wing instead of two, and the rear cargo bay and its door were smaller. Powerplants were CFM56-5A or V2500-A5 turbofans, derated to 98 kN (9,980 kgp / 22,000 lbf), with an option for 105 kN (10,885 kgp / 24,000 lbf) thrust for "hot and high" service.
Program launch was in 1993, with maiden flight of the first prototype on 25 August 1995. The first prototype had CFM56 powerplants, while the second had V2500 powerplants. Certification was granted in 1996, with initial customer delivery, to Swissair, in the spring. Production was in Hamburg, as with the A320. The A319 actually proved more popular than the A320, with low-cost carrier EasyJet being particularly fond of it.
* In 1998, Airbus announced a further cut-down A320 with a nominal passenger load of 100 seats, the length being reduced to 31.44 meters (103 feet 2 inches). Initial flight of the first prototype of the "A318" was in Hamburg on 15 January 2002, Hamburg performing production, and introduction to service in 2003. The A318 was powered by CFM56-5B or Pratt & Whitney (P&W) PW6000 turbofans; it had a taller tail to compensate for the yaw instability caused by the shorter fuselage, giving a height increased from the 11.76 meters (38 feet 7 inches) of the A320 to 12.56 meters (41 feet 2 inches). Actual number of seats was 107 in a two-class layout, with galley and lavatories as per the A320. So far it hasn't proven all that popular, with less than a hundred in service.
* Of course, Airbus enhanced the A320 series during its production, the result being named the "A320 Enhanced" family. In 2006, work was done on a revised winglet, resulting in a swept winglet of conventional configuration, called a "sharklet", capable of reducing fuel burn by up to 4%. A new cabin was also introduced, with better luggage storage, reduced weight, and lower noise. LED-based lighting is available as an option. An update program was set up for older machines.
Following the A320 Enhanced, in 2010 Airbus then went on to offer the "A320NEO (New Engine Option)", featuring all the A320 enhancements, plus next-generation engines -- the P&W PW1100G and CFM International LEAP-1A -- offering lower maintenance costs and about 15% better fuel economy, translating to an increment of range of 950 kilometers (590 miles / 510 NMI) or increment of payload of two tonnes (4,400 pounds). Earlier A320 models were described as the "A320CEO (Current Engine Option)". Virgin America was the launch customer for the A320NEO.
The first of four A320NEO prototypes was rolled out in the summer of 2014, this machine being powered by PW1100G engines, with initial flight on 24 September. It was followed by a second prototype with P&W engines; and then a third, with LEAP-1A engines, this aircraft performing its initial flight on 19 May 2015. A second LEAP-1A prototype followed. Initial customer deliveries are scheduled for 2016.
The A320NEO is being followed by the "A319NEO" and "A321NEO", with two prototypes for each, presumably with the different engine options. The A321NEO was the first to fly, a prototype fitted with LEAP-1A engines taking to the skies on 9 February 2016. The A321NEO not only has the new engines, but has a rearranged door configuration -- no forward door; two overwing exits, one being plugged for low-density seating arrangements; and the rear door moved back -- to permit 20 more passengers, for a load of 240. A long-range A321NEO will be introduced later, this machine to have more fuel tankage, higher MTO, and a passenger capacity of 206 seats.
* Airbus offers corporate / VIP configurations of the A320 series jetliners, with luxury interiors as per customer spec, and options such as long-range tanks. The A320 series is also in use with a good number of armed services in the personnel and VIP transport roles. There have been proposals for "special mission" platforms based on the A320 series, but so far none of them have panned out.
From 2009, a plant in Tianjin, China, has been producing A320-series jetliners for the Chinese market. In 2013, Airbus began work on another production facility in Mobile, Alabama, which opened in 2015, with the first US-built machine, an A321, delivered in the spring of 2016. One of the motives in establishing production facilities outside of Europe is that it is hard to lay off workers in Europe, and having factories where employees can be more easily dismissed gives Airbus greater workforce flexibility in the event of an order shortfall. As of early 2016, almost 7,000 A320-series jetliners had been delivered, with thousands more on the order books, particularly for the A320NEO.
The A320NEO is likely to replace existing A320-series jetliners in service. In consequence, following an earlier false start, in 2015 Airbus signed an agreement with Singapore-based ST Aerospace to offer passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversions of existing A320 and A321 jetliners. The "A320P2F" will be able to haul 21 tonnes (23 tons) of cargo over 3,885 kilometers (2,415 miles / 2,100 NMI), while the "A321P2F" will be able to haul 27 tonnes (30 tons) of cargo over 3,515 kilometers (2,185 miles / 1,900 NMI). The first conversions are expected to be delivered in 2018, with Airbus officials estimating there will be hundreds of conversions.BACK_TO_TOP
* Airbus chose to develop the smaller A320 to complement the A300-series of jetliners; in 1988, investigation began of a bigger "Ultra-High Capacity Aircraft (UHCA)" as well, initially designated the "A3XX". Full go-ahead for development was given in 1999, with official program launch of the "A380", as it was formally designated, in 2000.
The first of five A380 prototypes performed its initial flight on 27 April 2005; the flight was like an airshow in itself, with a crowd of over 50,000 in attendance. There were no problems, and the aircraft's handling proved excellent. Five prototypes were built to support the development program. Initial certification was in early 2006, with the A380 entering service in 2007 with Singapore Airlines. Final assembly is in Toulouse.
As it emerged, the A380 is a widebody, double-deck aircraft, with a total floor space of 478 square meters (5,145 square feet) -- 40% more than the next biggest jetliner, the Boeing 747-8. Construction is mostly of aircraft aluminum alloy, though with a high proportion of composites. The A380 is available with two types of engines, the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 or the Engine Alliance GP7000, with thrust level on the order of 336 kN (36,280 kgp / 80,000 lbf) -- varying below or above that level as per engine variant. Only the inboard engines have thrust reversers. A PW 980A APU provides ground and starting power.
Wing sweep at quarter chord is 35 degrees 44 seconds inboard, 34 degrees 28 seconds outboard. The tailfin has a sweep of 40 degrees at quarter-chord. Each wing features single slotted flaps in three segments; seven spoilers in front of the flaps; an aileron in three segments; leading-edge slats in eight segments; and wing fences along the lines of those of the A320. Along with a single nosewheel assembly, there are four main gear assemblies, with six wheels each in a 2x3 bogey arrangement. The steerable nose gear retracts forward; the outboard main gear hinges in towards the fuselage, while the inboard main gear, to the rear of the outboard gear, retracts backward.
The lower deck accommodates row widths of up to ten seats, while the upper deck can accommodate row widths of up to eight seats. Typical three-class capacity is 525 seats; maximum capacity, in a one-class configuration, is 853 seats. In a typical configuration, the lower deck will have:
The lower deck will have:
First-class passenger configurations often include fancy fixtures and luxuries -- a parody of an A380 layout for Virgin America included a casino, a zoo, a bowling alley, a morgue, and 550 economy seats on a ten-inch pitch.
The passenger cabin is designed to reduce fatigue, with lower noise levels and higher pressurization than earlier jetliners. The windows are also larger, there is more headroom, as well as bigger overhead bins. Lighting is provided by a system of LED lamps that can be programmed to simulate daytime, night, or intermediate levels. There are stairways fore and aft to connect the upper and lower decks. Each side of the aircraft features five doors / emergency exits on the lower deck, three on the upper deck. The cargo hold in the belly of the aircraft can accommodate 38 standard LD3 cargo containers, or a load equivalent.
AIRBUS A380-800: _____________________ _________________ _______________________ spec metric english _____________________ _________________ _______________________ wingspan 79.75 meters 238 feet 7 inches wing area 845 sq_meters 9,100 sq_feet length 72.73 meters 238 feet 7 inches height 24.45 meters 80 feet 3 inches empty weight 276,800 kilograms 610,200 pounds MTO weight 575,000 kilograms 1,272,000 pounds max cruise speed 945 KPH 585 MPH / 510 KT cruise altitude 13,135 meters 43,100 feet range 15,700 kilometers 9,755 MI / 8,500 NMI _____________________ _________________ _______________________
The A380 features contemporary avionics, including radios, identification transponder, landing and navigation aids (with GPS), color weather radar, and a networked interconnection scheme. Cameras are fitted under the fuselage and on top of the tailfin to aid in taxiing. The jetliner has a glass cockpit with eight color flat-panel displays, being flown with sidestick controllers.
Aircrew report the A380's handling is very benign. However, it does complicate the lives of airport flight controllers, since its powerful wake vortex means that smaller jetliners can't fly any closer than 13 kilometers (7 NMI) behind it.
A higher MTO version, featuring various tweaks, went into production in 2010, with a further raise in MTO in 2012. Production has included a handful of luxury / VIP configured machines. In late 2014, Airbus CEO Fabrice Bergier announced that the firm would (eventually) introduce an "A380NEO", with Airbus officials later adding that an updated A380 might well also feature a fuselage stretch of about 6 meters -- 20 feet, enough for six rows on both the decks, or about 100 more passengers, while increasing the empty weight by only about 5%. No commitments or dates were given, and some industry observers were skeptical that the economics made any sense.BACK_TO_TOP
* The Airbus A300 series was showing its age by the turn of the century, and so in 2004 Airbus began work on a replacement, the "A350". The original concept used a fuselage design leveraged off the A300 -- but customer feedback dictated a greater break from the past, with the design reconsidered in 2006 and given the designation of "A350 Extra Wide Body (XWB)". Qatar Airways became the launch customer. Initial flight of the baseline "A350-900" was on 14 June 2013, with certification the next year.
As it emerged, the A350 -- since there was no production variant of the original A350 concept, the XWB is usually left implied -- has a configuration along the lines of the A300-series jetliners, but is of largely composite construction; the wings feature neatly curved winglets. The baseline powerplant is the Trent XWB; alternative engine offerings from GE and P&W seem to be up in the air for the time being. Engine start and backup power is provided by a Honeywell HGT1700 APU. The A350 features a glass cockpit with six displays. The nose gear has two wheels, while the main gear typically has four wheels in a 2x2 bogey arrangement, with six wheels in a 2x3 bogey arrangement provided on high MTO variants. The nose gear retracts forward, the main gear pivots inward into the fuselage.
AIRBUS A350-900: _____________________ _________________ _______________________ spec metric english _____________________ _________________ _______________________ wingspan 64.8 meters 213 feet wing area 460 sq_meters 5,000 sq_feet length 66.89 meters 219 feet 6 inches height 17.05 meters 55 feet 11 inches empty weight 115,700 kilograms 255,100 pounds MTO weight 268,000 kilograms 591,000 pounds max cruise speed 945 KPH 585 MPH / 510 KT cruise altitude 13,135 meters 43,100 feet range 14,350 kilometers 8,912 MI / 7,750 NMI _____________________ _________________ _______________________
Economy seating arrangements feature from 8 to 10 seats across in a two-aisle configuration. Passenger accommodations feature large windows, LED lighting, and a fiber-optic network for entertainment distribution. Airbus officials claim the A350 will be more efficient in terms of passenger-miles than the competing Boeing 787, an assertion that Boeing has of course energetically disputed. Impartial observers noted that Airbus had often sniped at the "all-composite" construction of the 787, until Airbus began work on their own such aircraft -- Airbus and Boeing rarely have much good to say about each other, and so customers don't take their shots at each other very seriously.
The A350-900 has a range of 13,900 kilometers (8,625 miles / 7,500 NMI) and a typical passenger capacity of 314 seats in a three-class configuration, with 9-across seating in economy class. It has four doors along each side of the fuselage, plus cargo doors on the right side of the fuselage, one fore and aft of the wing. It is powered by the baseline Trent XWB engine, with a thrust of 370 kN (37,640 kgp / 83,000 lbf). Airbus has initiated an “A350-900ULR” ultra-long-range subvariant for Singapore Airlines, to support the Singapore-to-New York route; there's been talk of other subvariants, notably an "A350-900F" freighter, but for now they remain talk.
The A350-900 is to be followed by the "A350-800", a "shortened" version, with length reduced to 90% (60.54 meters / 198 feet 7 inches) of the -900, and MTO reduced to 97% (259 tonnes / 285 tons). It will have a range of 16,300 kilometers (10,125 miles / 8,800 NMI) and a typical passenger capacity of 253 seats in a three-class configuration. Two derated versions of the Trent XWB will be offered as powerplants, with ratings of 330 kN (74,000 lbf) and 350 kN (79,000 lbf).
The A350-800 will be followed in turn by the stretched "A350-1000", with length increased to 110% (73.88 meters / 242 feet 5 inches) of the -900 and MTO raised to 115% (308 tonnes / 339 tons). It will have a passenger capacity of 350 seats in a three-class configuration. The A350-1000 will feature a slightly bigger wing, and will be powered by uprated Trent XWBs with 432 kN (43,990 kgp / 97,000 lbf) thrust each.BACK_TO_TOP
* As concerns copyrights and permissions for this document, all illustrations and images credited to me are public domain. I reserve all rights to my writings. However, if anyone does want to make use of my writings, just contact me, and we can chat about it. I'm lenient in giving permissions, usually on the basis of being properly credited.
* Sources include:
The Airbus website, the online Wikipedia, and several volumes of JANE'S ALL THE WORLD AIRCRAFT were also consulted for details.
* Revision history:
v1.0.0 / 01 jul 14 v1.0.1 / 01 jun 16 / Taller tailfin on A318, minor updates.BACK_TO_TOP