Airbus will offer an additional 450nm of range on its two-aircraft A220 regional jet program from the second half of 2020.
The airframer announced on Tuesday (European time) the longer range was achieved thanks to an increase in the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 2.3 metric tonnes.
As a result, the A220-100 would have a range of 3,400nm, while the A220-300 would have a range of 3,350nm. This was 450nm more than the current published range for the two aircraft.
The A220-100’s basic MTOW would increase to 63.1t, from 60.8t currently, while the A220-300 would have a basic MTOW of 69.9t, up from 67.6t.
“This performance increase is achieved by taking credit of existing structural and systems margins as well as existing fuel volume capacity,” Airbus said in a statement.
Further, Airbus said this would allow airlines to operate the A220 on routes between Western Europe and the Middle East, or from Australia to Southeast Asia, that were not possible previously.
Airbus chief commercial officer Christian Scherer described the clean-sheet design A220 as a “wonderful machine” with the flexibility and versatility be deployed on both short-hop regional and longer range routes with outstanding operating economics.
“This new MTOW will allow operators to reach markets which today cannot be served by other small single-aisle aircraft types,” Scherer said.
The performance improvements Airbus announced on Tuesday was the latest indication of the A220’s long-range potential.
In January 2019, Canada’s civil aviation authority Transport Canada approved the A220 regional jet to operate under 180-minute extended operations (ETOPS) rules, which meant the aircraft could be flown on a route that kept it within three hours flying time on a single engine from an alternate airport in the event of an engine failure.
The 180-minute ETOPS would be an available option for both the A220-100 and A220-300 and would allow operators of the type to fly “new direct non-limiting routings over water, remote or underserved regions”, Airbus said at the time.
A220 was formerly known as the CSeries
The A220 is the newest member of the Airbus family of commercial aircraft. It was formerly known as the CSeries when the program was managed by Bombardier.
However, in October 2017 Airbus struck an agreement with Bombardier to become a partner and 50.01 per cent majority shareholder in the CSeries, with Bombardier and the Quebec government’s investment arm, Investissement Québec, owning approximately 34 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively.
The deal was finalised on July 1 2018 and later in the month Airbus officially rebranded the CSeries as the A220 at an event held at its Toulouse headquarters.
Powered by the Pratt & Whitney PW1500G geared turbofans, the A220 family comprises two models – the A220-100 (100-135 seats) and A220-300 (130-160 seats), formerly Bombardier’s CS100 and CS300.
Currently, the A220-100 has a published range of 2,950nm when configured with 116 passengers, while Airbus lists the A220-300’s range on its website as 3,200nm with 141 passengers.
VIDEO: A closer look at the Airbus A220 from the Airbus YouTube channel.
Scherer said Airbus has brought innovation to the market in the A220 through the acquisition of the program from Bombardier.
“We innovated in a different way by actually acquiring an aircraft program that had been clean sheet designed for the lower segments of the market,” Scherer said at Airbus Innovation Days on Tuesday.
“Remember our product offering with the A320 family is extremely successful but as you shrink an airplane – I am thinking A318, A319, – your economic efficiency of that particular airplane decreases by definition because it is a per seat heavier aircraft.
“So there was this thing called the CSeries out there, a clean-sheet design tailor made for that particular market.
“That’s pretty innovative right. Instead our redesigning our own airplanes we actually acquired this very, very good airplane program. I call that innovation in a business sense as well.”
Scherer described the transaction as “innovation in a business sense”, with a “great airplane” now being distributed by Airbus.
“It may be not a very nice thing to say but the huge development cost of the A220 was borne by Bombardier,” Scherer said.
“Picking up that program along the way has allowed Airbus to benefit from that without the risk and the cost associated to the development of a clean-sheet.”
In February 2019, Air Vanuatu became the first airline in the South Pacific to order the type when it signed for four aircraft at the Avalon Airshow.
It was expected to receive two A220s in 2020, with the remaining two aircraft to be delivered in 2021 and 2022.
At April 30 2019, Airbus had delivered 68 A220 family aircraft comprising 19 A220-100s and 49 A220-300s. There were a further 468 A220s on order, according to figures on the Airbus website.