Airbus intends to start cutting metal for major structures on the A320neo shortly, having frozen the conceptual design of the twinjet and moved into the detailed design phase.
However, it has already started manufacturing and testing some components for the re-engined aircraft family.
A320neo senior vice-president Klaus Roewe says the pylon, rather than the centre wing box, is the "front-runner" for the programme - owing to the need to support a heavier powerplant - and that test pylon parts are already being produced. These include forward lateral spar forgings, while the initial aft pylon fairing has already been flown on Airbus's A380 testbed.
"The programme is well on track," says Roewe. "The schedule is tight but we have very good engagement with partners."
He says the closure of the concept phase, covering the A320neo and A319neo, means the airframer has "confirmation of the performance" of the aircraft. There will be a "complementary" concept phase for the final member of the family, the A321neo, to account for specific components.
Some 1,200 personnel across the Airbus facilities at Toulouse, Hamburg, Filton and Getafe are working on the airframe. Roewe estimates that, if the powerplant and nacelle development work is included, the total rises to 5,000. He adds that "all suppliers are engaged" on the industrial effort. Airbus has selected systems and aerostructures providers and amended contracts for modified components.
Roewe says the airframer expects the first engine for the A320neo, the geared-fan Pratt & Whitney PW1100G, to undergo runs before the end of this year.