A320 – Airbus’ Most Successful Aircraft Type

The Airbus A320 family of planes it the most successful ever to be produced by Airbus. The entire family has sold over 17.800 orders in its long history which starts over 3 decades ago. So here’s all there is to know about the Airbus A320 aircraft family.

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The Origins Of the Airbus A320 Family

Airbus entered the civil aviation market in with the A300. The A300 was a wide body jet that introduced revolutionary new advancements. It was one of a kind aircraft as it was the first attempt by a plane manufacturer to power a wide body jet with only 2 engines. The A300 was followed by another wide body plane, the A310. This was the long range version that allowed airlines to operate longer routes.

However by the early 1980s Airbus realised it needed to make a dent in Boeing’s overwhelming dominance in the single aisle narrow body market. The narrow body market is the bread and butter for aircraft manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus, with most huge amounts of orders keeping a healthy cash flow going.

Until then though Boeing had had little to no competition in this market segment with its Boeing 737. Therefore Airbus set out to develop an aircraft family that could compete with the extremely successful Boeing plane.

The project was eventually named the Airbus A320. The plane was thought and designed to be highly optimised to serve short and frequent services all while maintaining a high fuel efficiency.

When did The Airbus A320 First Fly?

The A320 first flew on February 22nd 1987. That wasn’t a commercial flight, just the first of its test flights. A full 5 years before the A330 first flew. While the plane entered service on April 8th 1988 with Air France Flying from Paris to Berlin. As for the variants here’s their first flight date:

  • A319 – August 25th 1995
  • A318 – January 15th 2002
  • A321 – March 11th 1993
SAS Scandinavian Airlines Airbus A320neo in Winter Conditions

Which Are The A320 Family Variants?

So far 4 variants of the A320 family have taken to the sky. The variants are shorter or stretched versions of the original design. The 4 variants are the:

  • A318
  • A319
  • A320
  • A321

With the A318 (also known as BabyBus) being the smallest, and by far the rarest plane of the family, while the A321 is the biggest of the lot with the highest capacity.

All these 4 aircraft types can be flown with a single type rating. This grants huge operational flexibility to airlines that own more than one variant.

TAP Portugal Airbus A320

The New Generation Of The Family

Looking to the future of the A320 family airbus has decided to invest on a new generation to keep ahead of the competition. The new generation of jets is the neo, or New Engine Option. These planes have been redesigned to improve fuel efficiency performance and other key characteristics with new engines to power the plane. However not all of the 4 planes is getting a new and improved version.

Only the A320 and A321 are getting a neo version. More interestingly the A321neo with its LR and soon even more with its XLR is opening a whole new era of travel.

The A321neo is allowing airlines to operate long range routes using a single aisle narrow body jet. Clearly this enables airlines to open and make a profit on routes with limited demand.

Just in 2023 we’ve seen the likes of SAS use the A321neo for flights from Gothenburg to New York or Aer Lingus open a number of routes in the US or even low cost carriers such as JetBlue operate transatlantic routes with this aircraft.

Where Are the Airbus A320s Built?

Although Airbus is a European company, the A320 family is built in multiple locations across the globe. It has become so popular with airlines that assembly outside of Europe have been set up in:

  • Mobile, Alabama (USA) – A320s and A321s.
  • Tianjin, China – A319s, A320s and A321s.
  • Toulouse, France – A320s.
  • Hamburg, Germany – A318s, A319s and A321s.

The assembly lines outside of Europe also help avoid tariffs that may be applied to imported planes in the US and China.