Pictures: Airbus aims to thwart Boeing’s narrowbody plans with upgraded 'A320 Enhanced'

Toulouse
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By Max Kingsley-Jones in Toulouse

Airframer outlines plans for ‘Enhanced’ model and targets 4-5% efficiency gain

Airbus is aiming to sabotage the business case for any near-term plan by Boeing to develop an all-new narrowbody family with an “A320 Enhanced” that will incorporate improvements to significantly increase efficiency.

The improved single-aisle family will incorporate an aerodynamic tidy-up, engine improvements, weight savings, a new cabin and possibly new large winglets, which are currently in flight test. Service entry is targeted for 2008.

a320 cabin
© Airbus 

The new cabin has mood lighting and resculptured side panels
a320 enhanced cabin 02 w445

Airbus chief operating officer customers John Leahy does not believe that a quantum leap in single-aisle aircraft efficiency will be possible until the arrival of new engine technology in middle of the next decade, and in the meantime Airbus is working on the Enhanced models with the target of reducing fuel burn by 4-5%. “I would bet we probably can achieve this,” says Leahy. He says that “the winglets could get a couple of percent, the aerodynamic clean-up could get another 1% and a little more tweaking here and there could give another 1% on today’s A320”.

Leahy believes the business case for a new-generation single-aisle aircraft would not be viable unless it offered at least a 10% improvement in fuel burn. “But if today’s A320 improves by 4-5% we’ve just moved the goal posts,” he says. “Who’s going to roll over a fleet to a new generation aircraft for 5% better than an A320 today? Especially if another 10% improvement might be coming in the second half of the next decade based on new engine technology,” says Leahy.

a320enhance 

Airbus has been flight testing its in-house-developed large winglet design on its development aircraft since April and has since installed it on a new JetBlue aircraft to compile definitive results of its impact on a current production airframe. Testing of a second version – developed by Winglet Technology – will start in July. As well as being part of the Enhanced’s package of improvements, the winglets are also likely to be offered for retrofit.

Senior vice-president A320 family programme Mario Heinen says that the design for the modifications will be frozen in the second half of 2006, with the aim “to provide most, if not all, of the improvements by 2008”.

The new model would incorporate the upgrades under development by CFM International and International Aero Engines, which are mainly aimed at reducing maintenance cost, but will also lower fuel burn. “These design changes will be available in the later part of 2008,” says Heinen.

Airbus has also developed a new interior, which will incorporate new architecture and is 50kg (110lb) lighter, and will be available from mid-2007 on new aircraft and for retrofit.