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A319/A320/A321 General Overview


Having accumulated some 1,500 firm orders from international customers, Airbus Industrie's A319/A320/A321 family represents one of the most successful civil aircraft programs in aviation history. There are approximately 720 A319s, A320s and A321s in passenger service.

The three aircraft are the most economical and environmentally friendly aircraft in their category, and feature the widest fuselage of their class -- providing a roomy passenger cabin and unmatched underfloor cargo volume.

The commonality shared by the A319, A320 and A321 is a strong selling point, and provides customers with advantages in operations, scheduling, crew training, and maintenance.

The A320 marked Airbus Industrie's entry into the single-aisle market. It was designed in the 1980s for airlines' anticipated fleet expansion, and as a next-generation replacement for the thousands of aging 150-seat category transports already in service.

Airbus Industrie decided to make the A320 a truly new aircraft, incorporating technologies that would provide the best operating efficiency and performance for airlines, and a high comfort level for passengers.

Building on the increasing use of computers in all modern transports, the consortium incorporated fly-by-wire controls in the A320 -- a move that was followed years later by the U.S. civil aviation industry.

The A320 program was launched in March 1984, despite a downturn in airline aircraft purchases due to the recession of the 1980s. The decision proved to be a sound one, correctly anticipating the need for a competitive transport to meet carriers' needs when the economy improved later in the decade. The A320 entered service in 1988 with Air France and British Caledonian Airways.

Today, the A320 has become Airbus Industrie's best selling aircraft -- with well over 800 on order. Typically seating 150 passengers in a two-class cabin, the A320 is capable of flying non-stop for up to 5,500 km./3,000 naut. mi. Operators include Northwest, Air Canada, Indian Airlines, Lufthansa, United Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Egyptair, Gulf Air, and Mexicana.

Airbus Industrie gave the go-ahead in November 1989 for a stretched A320 version, designated the A321. The fuselage of the basic A320 was lengthened with the addition of an eight-frame (4.26 meter/13.97 ft.) section forward of the wing, and a 5-frame (2.67 meter/8.75 ft.) section aft of the wing. Seating 185 passengers in a two-class layout, the A321 has a range of up to 5,500 km./3,000 naut. mi.

Among the airlines flying A321s are Lufthansa, Alitalia, Air Inter Europe, Air Macau, Austrian Airlines, Swissair and TransAsia Airways.

A developed version of the A321 -- called A321-200 -- was launched in April 1994 for a service startup in 1997. The first aircraft, powered by International Aero Engines' V2533-A5 engines, made its maiden flight in December, 1996 from the Daimler-Benz Aerospace Airbus facility in Hamburg-Finkenwerder Germany. It has an additional center fuel tank and an increased take-off weight of 89 metric tons/196,200 lb.

The A321-200 was certificated by the European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) on March 20, 1997, clearing it for passenger service. Initial customer for the A321-200 is International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC), with its first aircraft going to British airline Airworld.

Another development of the A320 is the shortened-fuselage A319 derivative, which entered airline service in 1996 with Swissair, powered by CFM International CFM56 engines. The A319 is seven fuselage frames shorter than the basic A320, and will seat 124 passengers in a typical two-class cabin layout. Maximum range is 6,500 km./3,500 naut. mi Customers for the A319 include United Airlines, Air Canada, Lufthansa, International Lease Finance Corp., Air Inter Europe and Swissair.

Germany's Eurowings is the first carrier worldwide to use the A319 for charter purposes.

Airlines currently operating A319s with CFM56 engines include Swissair, Air Canada, Air Inter Europe, Eurowings and Lufthansa. The A319 equipped with International Aero Engines' V2524 turbofan engines made its first flight in May, 1996. First customer for the V2524-powered A319 is the International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC). The 24 A321s purchased by United also are powered by V2500s. United was the first U.S. airline to order the 319, and began receiving its aircraft beginning in mid 1997. Deliveries will continue through mid 1999.

Featuring the same cockpits and handling qualities, pilots trained to fly the A319, A320 or A321 are also qualified to fly the other two single-aisle aircraft as the result of common type-ratings. Meanwhile, the same airframe and on-board systems mean that the aircraft can be maintained by the same mechanics.

Cockpit and handling similarity of the A319/A320/A321 also extends to the much larger A330/A340 widebody family, where additional cross-crew qualification (CCQ) training enables a pilot to be licensed to fly both the single-aisle and widebody aircraft.

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