Airbus is to offer a further range increase on the A220-300 towards the middle of this year, with a 1t hike in the twinjet’s maximum take-off weight.
It will take the MTOW of the -300, the larger of the A220 variants, to 70.9t from the current 69.9t and will provide some 200nm additional range. On long routes the jet will be able to accommodate about 900kg in extra payload.
The airframer managed to extract the extra performance from the -300 following earlier work, disclosed in May 2019, to raise the MTOW of both the A220-100 and -300 by 2.3t.
“During the detailed design – as we were running through the numbers and looking through the reserve factors on the structure – we actually found that there was additional margin available in the structure of the [-300],” Airbus vice-president of single-aisle marketing Antonio Da Costa tells FlightGlobal.
He says this enabled the airframer to take the aircraft’s weight “to the limit of what we could find”, and certify the MTOW at the higher figure of 70.9t, adding: “This was a very pleasant surprise that we found waiting on the aircraft.”
Da Costa says the 1t change specifically applies only to the -300.
“We’ve already engaged with the [2.3t] increase [on both variants] and for the time being we’re staying with that level on the -100,” he states.
“The -100 and -300 each have their own optimised structures so there’s not a direct read-across from one to the other.”
Airbus will make the further MTOW increase on the -300 available from the middle of 2021 for line-fit, and it will also be a retrofit option – via a service bulletin – for all previously-produced -300s.
There is no physical modification, just a “paper change”, so a customer can decide “at relatively the last minute” whether it wants the upgrade, says Da Costa.
“This will be made available to all customers,” he says. “As customers take delivery they can choose whatever MTOW they want.”
Airbus has been gradually refining the A220 since taking over the programme, formerly known as the CSeries, from Bombardier in July 2018.
“All aircraft are designed with growth capabilities,” says Da Costa. “That growth capability comes out as we gain in-service experience. We know more and more about the aircraft and we’re able to go back to original engineering calculations and refine them with that in-service experience.”
The -300 is the more popular of the two A220 models, accounting for 539 of the 629 firm orders by the end of February 2021. Customers have taken delivery of 148 A220s.
Airbus is focusing on increasing the competitiveness of the A220, in order to shift the programme into profitability. Production rates are being raised to five aircraft per month by the end of the first quarter.
Da Costa says the A220 was “one of the least-impacted aircraft” during the air transport crisis last year, with a substantial proportion still flying at the nadir, and “pretty much all of the fleet” having since returned to operation.
Airbus is pitching the A220 as having the lowest operating costs for an aircraft in its size category, and Da Costa believes the initial prioritisation of short-haul during the recovery will be a “significant selling point, allowing airlines to take that aircraft and come out stronger from the crisis”.