Airbus has announced the entry into service (EIS) of its re-engined A320neo (for New Engine Option) will be in October 2015, nearly 12 months earlier than planned.
Speaking to media in Toulouse on April 5, Airbus’s COO – customers, John Leahy, said demand for the neo had been so strong that the company had decided to devote additional engineering resources to bring the aircraft to market earlier. Since launching the program late last year, Airbus has taken 332 order commitments for the new version of its popular single-aisle jet, and Leahy said he has more MoUs “waiting to announce” and that he expects to have sold “more than 500” neos by June’s Paris Airshow, making it the “fastest selling airliner in history”.
Airbus has allocated 900 engineers to the neo project out of its 12,000 strong engineer workforce. The company says it has confidence in the re-engineering program, especially after better than expected progress in recent months on the ‘sharklet’ winglet development program currently underway for the A320 Family.
The A320 will be the first model developed in neo form, and will be followed by the A319 and A321 at roughly six month intervals.
Leahy also revealed that Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower PW1100G geared turbofan (GTF) would be the lead engine on the new program after big orders for the engine from early customers, and that engine’s more advanced development, but added that over the longer run he expected the engine sales breakdown for the neo to be split roughly 50:50 between the GTF and CFM’s Leap-X engine.
A total of eight prototype aircraft will be used in the neo development program, the first of which is expected to fly in late 2014. Four of the prototypes will be A320s, two with the GTF and two with the Leap-X, plus there will be one A319 and one A321 allocated to each engine as well. There are no plans at present to re-engine the slow selling A318, which Leahy says really is “a niche product.”
The neo with the new generation engines is expected to improve fuel burn by more than 15 per cent over the current A320. Leahy said this equates to more than 1.4 million litres of fuel per year for an average operator, and 3600 tonnes fewer CO2 emissions. The neo will also provide more than 500nm more range or lift an additional three tonnes of payload over a typical sector. It will retain 95 per cent parts commonality with the current A320, and conversion from the standard aircraft will require five days training for maintenance personnel, and as little as two hours of text book reading and a short computer based examination for pilots.
The neo will be about one tonne heavier than the standard equivalent A320, and will require a strengthened wing structure and reinforced main gear axles, but Airbus says it is looking to reduce weight in other areas. Elements of the strengthened wing will be incorporated before the neo enters production so both the neo and the standard A320 will share a common wing.
Airbus says the neo will be built concurrently with the standard A320 until the market dictates when A320 production should stop. A320 neos will initially be built at Hamburg, but Airbus says there is no reason both models won’t be able to be built on the same line. The list price of the neo is expected to have a US$6.2 million premium over the standard model.
Leahy also addressed lessors’ fears that the neo would undermine residual values of standard A320s already in service, saying studies had shown that values wouldn’t start to fall until the global neo fleet reaches about half the size of the global standard A320 fleet, expected around the 2023-25 timeframe. He said Airbus hopes to sell up to 6000 neos by 2030, which would give the A320 series a remarkable production lifespan of more than 40 years and some 13,000 aircraft.