Airbus is likely to continue building its current A320 narrowbody for some time after it begins delivering the new A320neo (new engine option).
"It's not as if one stops building the current plane on a Friday and starts building the [A320] neo on a Monday. As a minimum, there is a ramp down and a ramp up from the current aircraft to the neo and it's quite possible, as a function of customer demand, that we'll continue to build the current standard aircraft for a long time to come, in other words after we have been delivering neos," Airbus vice president of marketing Andrew Shankland said today at the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT) conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.
"If we do that, we have two ways of doing it. One is to literally keep delivering the 2016 standard of the current A320 alongside the neo, which would mean in effect a slightly different airframe and wing structure and obviously different engines."
The second option, he says, "is to have some sort of hybrid where we bolt the current engine somehow onto the neo structure. From an industrial standpoint, Airbus does not need to make that decision today. That is in the future."
However, he adds, "from a practical standpoint, the way that we're leaning right now is to just keep building the current plane because we have three assembly lines throughout the world and we have a number of sets of jigs in each assembly line so we do have the flexibility to be delivering in effect two standards of aircraft at the same time."
Airbus is offering CFM's Leap-X and Pratt & Whitney's PW1100G as options for its new A320neo, which is expected to enter into service 2016. The increase in the empty weight of the neo, versus the current A320, "depending upon which engine one chooses is between 1.6 and 1.8 metric tonnes", says Shankland. "So that's already factoredinto all of the operational characteristics and fuel burn figures."