Airbus launched its single-aisle product line with the A320, which continues to set industry standards for comfort and operating economy on short- to medium-haul routes. Typically seating 150 passengers in a two-class cabin – or up to 180 in a high-density layout for low-cost and charter flights – the A320 is in widespread service around the globe on services that vary from short commuter sectors in Europe, Asia and elsewhere to trans-continental flights across the United States.
The A320’s advanced technology includes the extensive use of weight-saving composites, an optimised wing that is 20 per cent is more efficient than previous designs, a centralised fault display for easier troubleshooting and lower maintenance costs, along with Airbus’ fly-by-wire flight controls.
Advantages of the fly-by-wire controls – which were pioneered on the A320 – are many. They provide total flight envelope and airframe structural protection for improved safety and reduced pilot workload, along improved flight smoothness and stability, and fewer mechanical parts.
In addition, fly-by-wire and cockpit standardization across the A320 Family are at the heart of Airbus’ commonality, which allows a pilot qualified on one Family member to fly them all, using the same type rating. Over 80 per cent of operators with 10 or more A320 Family jetliners in their fleets fly more than one model of the Airbus single-aisle product line – enabling them to benefit fully from the commonality concept through more effective scheduling of aircraft and crews.
Taking the Airbus commonality one step further, an A320-rated pilot can transition to any other Airbus jetliner with reduced training (known as “Cross-crew Qualification”), and is able to operate another Airbus aircraft type while still actively flying the A320 Family (a capability called “Mixed Fleet Flying”).
The A320’s right-sized fuselage is seven inches wider than its competitors, enhancing comfort for passengers and increasing revenue opportunities for airlines. It enables choices of four-, five-, and six-abreast layouts with wider seats, along with opportunities for wider aisles and increased overhead storage bins. Rapid turnaround times on the ground are further facilitated by the A320’s bigger passenger and service doors.
Airbus has developed a new interior for the A320 and its other family members that brings a fresh new look to the cabin, a significant increase in overhead stowage, a noticeable reduction in noise, and introduces options for ambience lighting. An added advantage is this updated interior’s lower weight.