Only a few weeks after MSN6000 rolls off the Airbus A320 final assembly line, the airframer aims to pass a more significant milestone by completing the first re-engined version of the single-aisle type. Airbus has identified a provisional airframe which will be the first to emerge as the A320neo. However, programme chief Klaus Roewe is reluctant to publicise the precise serial number - beyond saying it will be in the "early 6000s" - to avoid inevitable headlines about technical problems should its position be pushed back by a few slots. Not that any such concerns are worrying the development team. "We're precisely on track with the schedule," insists Roewe. "We're passing the milestones at a very high level of quality."
Norwegian gave the programme a big boost by ordering 100 Neos
Whether the A320neo is really history's fastest-selling jetliner depends on whether anyone agrees with gradients drawn on the sales charts of chief operating officer for customers John Leahy. But two years after the re-engined twinjet was unveiled in December 2010, the aircraft has passed 1,500 firm orders - the equivalent of more than two per day - without any cancellations or conversions, a backlog which has yet to include another 130 jets, for American Airlines, which Airbus nonchalantly put aside while the carrier sorted out its Chapter 11 restructuring. Half the firm orders were booked within 250 days of launch. While Virgin America has muted the fanfare of its launch order by opting to push back deliveries by four years, the creation of earlier slots will hardly worry Airbus, whose primary concern has been a scarcity of delivery positions, particularly given limits of the supply chain to accommodate further production rate increases. A320 production has risen to 42 per month but, says the airframer, there is "no commitment" to take this any further.
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