Airbus A320neo makes first flight this week

By David Flynn, September 24 2014
Airbus A320neo makes first flight this week

Airbus' new A320neo will make its maiden flight in Toulose tomorrow, ahead of its planned debut in October 2015 and with a deep queue of airlines eager to take up the fuel-efficient jet.

The only A320neo currently in existence will clock up the first hours of an extensive campaign which will later see it joined by seven more test aircraft – three A320neos, two of the smaller A319neo variant and two of the larger A321neo model.

"The overall purpose of a first flight is to clear the flight envelope – checking speed, altitude and angle of attack – to allow performance, handling and system testing as soon as possible" an Airbus spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller. "The systems will also be checked during the first flight like the engines, fuel pumps, hydraulic, electricity and landing gear."

Although the 320neo is not an all-new aircraft – it's an evolution of the current A320, fitted with new engines and a refined design including large curved wing tips called Sharklets (below) – it will still need to undergo the full gamut of tests including handling qualities, performance and engine testing in high altitudes and extremes of heat and cold.

And it'll need to do them twice over, because airlines can choose between two different engines when ordering their A320neo jets – and the plane has to pass muster when fitted with each type of engine.

"It's very different, comparing from the Airbus A350" noted Fernando Alonso, Head of Airbus' Flight & Integration Test Centre, during an interview at the Farnborough International Airshow earlier this year.

"The A350 was a brand new development with a lot of new technology in the airplane. The A320neo is all about a well-known, proven airframe on which we install a state-of-the-art engine."

"The fact that we are doing this new engine on three different airplanes -the A320, A321 and A319 – and each one of those with two different engines, means six different models have to be certified in a period of one year, so that's a lot of airplanes flying, a lot of flight manuals to be generated, a lot of validation for the different engines and aircraft combinations."

"But everybody is very geared up and motivated, we’re just waiting for the airplane to be available and off we go!"

Airbus estimates that the A320neo family will slash fuel consumption by 15% against the current 'classic' A320, while also offering 8% lower operating costs for airlines and reduced noise levels.

Airbus currently counts over 3,000 orders from airlines around the world, including Air New Zealand’s pledge to buy thirteen of the next-gen jets and Qantas' placeholder for 99 A320neos to update its low-cost Jetstar fleet past 2020.

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

25 Feb 2012

Total posts 77

Couldn't similar engin refits be done on existing air frames ?  Has any one looked at a747  with more efficient engines ? Or A340 ?  I'm thinking the long haul 4 engine designs . With today's CAD efficiency  surly the turn around of refit design would be economic ?

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jan 2014

Total posts 339

Simple answer yes. B747-8 has new engines from the B787.

But four engines will always burn more fuel than twin.

25 Feb 2012

Total posts 77

Thanks Speedbird , will we always need the 4 engines for our long haul over water ? 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 464

ETOPS ratings of A350s and B787s should open up most of the routes that currently exclude twins. (350 minutes for A350 according to Wikipedia)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1377

The B777 and B787 and A350 which can do most missions the 747 can only have two engines.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Aug 2014

Total posts 51

Ah so excited! I hope Qantas transferes some of JQ's neos to mainline. Don't want to see jq with all the new aircraft!


28 Jul 2013

Total posts 29

May be I am dumb, but have never understood why QF give all the new fuel efficient aircraft to JQ and continue to fly all the old buses themselves. Or maybe Joyces mentality is simply low cost, cheap fares, crap service.  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2199

Because in order to offer everyday low fares, Jetstar needs the aircraft that are the cheapest to operate, which happen to be the newest ones.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Aug 2014

Total posts 51

Good Point, I hope jetstar goes bust then

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