The Airbus A320 is a short to medium range commercial passenger aircraft
manufactured by Airbus. It was the first airliner with a digital fly-by-wire
flight control system, where the pilot controls flight surfaces through the use
of electronic signals rather than mechanically with pulleys and hydraulic systems.
The first Airbus 320 family variant, the A320-100, was launched in 1984 and
entered service in 1988, with the winglet equipped A320-200 taking over
production at aircraft #22. Some A320-100s were retrofitted to -200 specification
excluding winglets. The A321 entered service in 1994, the A319 in 1996, and
the A318 in 2003.
The initial Air France A320 crashed during an airshow in Habsheim, France,
killing three passengers. While the crash was caused by pilot error in using
the novel fly-by-wire system, a few more early incidents are also attributed to pilot
errors. The most common pilot errors include flying it purely through the
As the airplane matured and pilots became better trained and more experienced
with fly-by-wire airliners, the incidence of such accidents diminished and seems
to have had no impact on the aircraft's huge popularity.
The new-technology items introduced include:
-The first fully digital fly-by-wire flight control system in a civil
airliner, hence the first with relaxed stability
-The first civil airliner to use sidesticks instead of control columns
-2 man crew (compared to 3-man crew of the 727)
-Fully featured glass cockpit rather than the hybrid versions found in
A310, Boeing 757 and Boeing 767
-The first narrowbody airliner with a significant amount of the structure
made from fiber composites
-Centralized maintenance diagnostics systems allowing technicians to
do diagnostics of aircraft system items from the cockpit
-The first narrowbody airliner with a containerized cargo system
All these features help make the A320 family a more economical airliner to
operate relative to older designs.
The A320 has given rise to a family of aircraft which share a common design but
are a little smaller (the A319), a lot smaller (the A318), or a little larger
(the A321). Passenger capacity is between 100 and 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 ETOPS rated.
The Irish national airline, Aer Lingus, has several A320-200 aircraft. The A320
series has two variants, the A320-100 and A320-200. The A320-200 is the
definitive version as very few A320-100s were produced. The A320-200 features
wingtip fences and increased fuel capacity over the A320-100 for increased range:
other than that the differences are minimal.
Typical range with 150 passengers for the A320-200 is about 2900 nautical miles
(5,400 km). It is powered by two CFMI CFM56-5 or IAE V2500 turbofans with thrust
ratings between 25,500 to 27,000 pounds force (113 kN to 120 kN).
A320 market share
Boeing has shipped 1,500 737s in just 6 years, with a total of 5,415 ordered
since the 1960's; Airbus has received 3,117 Airbus A320 orders since introduction
around 15 years ago. This makes the A320 faster selling on the average
(195 aircraft per annum versus 144 aircraft per annum for the 737).
The recent trend of fleet renewals by low-cost airlines like
easyJet, jetBlue, Air Berlin, and Virgin America has favored the A320 family,
thus stagnating the 737's further fleet growth.
However, these sales figures include the Airbus A321 which is intended to
compete with another Boeing product, the 757, and the Airbus A318, which is
intended to compete with the 717.
The Next-Generation Boeing 737 (-600 to -900) was the fastest plane to reach
1,500 orders, taking 6 years compared to 13 years for the Airbus A320 and 16
years for the Boeing 727. The 737-900 is a suitable replacement for the 757-200.
Determining the sales winner is largely a matter of which statistics one favors.
The 737 is the overall sales winner at 5,499 compared to the A32x at 3,272.
Average per-year sales over the lifetime of the entire airframe would place
the A32x at 163.6, and the 737 at 141. The total of the current models would
place the A32x at 3,272 and the 737NG at 2,367. And the sales of the current
models over each year they were on sale would put the 737NG at 215.2 and the
A32x at 163.6.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Airbus A320".