The Airbus A320 family of aircraft includes the A318, A319, A320, and the A321. The most recent variants include the A319neo, A320neo, and the A321neo. The A320 family is one of the most versatile and therefore successful aircraft families in the history of commercial aviation. The A320 variant was first entered into commercial service by Air France in 1988.
The longer A321 was first delivered in 1994, while the shorter A319 followed in 1996, and the shortest of these three, the A318, arrived in our skies in 2003. The A320 is a low wing airliner with twin underwing high bypass turbofans, either CFM International CFM56s or IAE V2500s, or the Pratt & Whitney PW6000 in the A318.
‘Neo’ stands for ‘new engine option’ and Lufthansa was the first airline to make use of the A320neo in 2016. With enhanced engine technology and Sharklets as standard, these aircraft are 15-20% more fuel efficient. The Sharklets or winglets make use of some of the energy generated in wing vortices.
As an aircraft flies through the air each wing tip generates an air vortex which contributes to induced drag. The cambered surface of the winglet converts this airflow into apparent thrust, a bit like the sail of a yacht when it’s sailing close hauled.
During the course of the aircraft’s lifetime this small amount of recovered energy can have a significant impact on the overall performance. The A320 was so successful during the first two decades of the 21st Century that by October 2019 sales had exceeded even those of the Boeing 737. That trend looks set to continue given the setbacks with the 737 during the past year.
Over 9,000 aircraft have been sold and it is in use with 330 operators around the world, with 414 in service with American Airlines alone. The A320 has the longest range of current single-aisle aircraft and this is another reason it has been so widely adopted by the world’s airlines.
The A320neo’s cabins include wider seats, improved lighting, and increased space in the overhead lockers.