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Encyclopedia > Airbus A321
British Midland Airbus A320
The Airbus A320 family from the smallest (A318) to the largest (A321)
The flight deck of the Airbus A320, using digital fly_by_wire for primary flight controls, side_stick controllers in place of the usual control columns, and six large electronic displays.

The Airbus A320 is a short to medium range commercial passenger aircraft manufactured by Airbus. It was the first airliner with a digital fly-by-wire flight control system, where the pilot controls flight surfaces through the use of electronic signals rather than mechanically with pulleys and hydraulic systems.



After the initial success of the A300, Airbus targeted the market segment that was occupied by the 1960s designed Boeing 727 & 737. Airbus designed an aircraft with a fuel burn of only around 50% of the 727.

The A320 first flew in 1984 and was commercially launched in 1988. Unlike the earlier Airbus A300, it sold strongly from the outset and has been the fastest_selling airliner in the world for several years.

Early on in its service lifetime, the A320 had several highly publicized crashes. The most notorious occurred on July 26, 1988, when an Air France A320 crashed during an airshow in Habsheim, France killing three passengers onboard. While the crash was officially blamed on pilot error, the investigation left numerous unanswered questions. Switzerland's Institute of Police Forensic Evidence and Criminology later determined that the plane's flight data recorder had been substituted after the crash, throwing the entire investigation into doubt.

Most of these accidents were attributed to pilot error in using the novel fly-by-wire system. As the airplane matured, the incidence of such accidents diminished and seems to have had no impact on the airplane's huge popularity.


The new-technology items introduced include:

  • the first fully digital fly-by-wire flight control system in a civil airliner, hence the first with relaxed stability
  • the first civil airliner to use sidesticks instead of control columns
  • 2-man crew (compared to 3-man crew of the 727)
  • fully featured glass cockpit rather than the hybrid versions found in A310, Boeing 757 and Boeing 767
  • the first narrowbody airliner with a significant amount of the structure made from fiber composites
  • centralized maintenance diagnostics systems allowing the technicians to do diagnostics of aircraft system items from the cockpit
  • the first narrowbody airliner with a containerized cargo system

All these features help make the A320 family more economical airliners to operate relative to older designs.


The A320 has given rise to a family of aircraft which share a common design but are a little smaller (the A319), a lot smaller (the A318), or a little larger (the A321). Passenger capacity is between 100 to 220. They compete with the Boeing 737 family and the Boeing 757-200. All have the same pilot type-rating.

Technically, the name "A320" only refers to the original mid-sized aircraft, but it is often informally used to indicate any of the A318/A319/A320/A321 family. All variants are ETOPS rated.


Irish national airline, Aer Lingus, has several A320-200 aircraft.

The A320 series has two variants i.e. the A320-100 and A320-200. The A320-200 is the definitive version as very few A320-100 were produced. A320-200 features wingtip fences and increased fuel capacity over the A320-100 for increased range, other than that changes were minimal.

Typical range with 150 passengers for the A320-200 is about 2900 nautical mile (5,400 km). It is powered by two CFMI CFM56_5 or IAE V2500 with thrust ratings between 25,500 to 27,000 pounds (113 kN to 120 kN).


This is shortened, minimum change version of the A320. With virtually same fuel capacity as the as A320_200, and fewer passengers, the range with 124 passengers in 2_class configuration extends to 3,900 nautical miles (7200 km), the highest in its class. The A320 and A319 are the most popular variants of the A320 family. In 2003 easyJet took delivery of A319s with smaller galleys (as easyJet does not serve meals) and 156 seats in a single class configuration. To satisfy evacuation regulations additional over_wing exits were also added.

The massive easyJet order of 120 A319 plus 120 options was among the biggest sales deals in recent times. It set the precedent of other low-cost airlines to consider the A320 family rather than the traditional choice, the Boeing 737, new or secondhand.

It is powered by the same types of engine as the A320. JAA certification and service entry, with Swissair, took place in April 1996.


This is the corporate jet version of the A319. It incorporates extra fuel tanks which are installed in the cargo compartment giving a range of 6,500 nautical miles (12,000 km). Upon resale the aircraft can be reconfigured as a standard A319 by removing its extra tanks, thus maximising its resale value.

Seating is up to 39 passengers but may be outfitted by the customers into any configuration. DaimlerChrysler and PrivatAir are among its users. The A319CJ competes with other corporate jets such as Boeing 737-based BBJ and Bombardier's Global Express. It is powered by the same types of engines as the A320.


This version features an all-business class layout with 48 seats, specifically tailored for exclusive business class services on intercontinental routes. The A319LR, compared to the A319CJ has four auxiliary fuel tanks instead of six. Typical range is 4,500 nautical mile(8300km), making it longest range airliner in the A320 family.

Lufthansa operates a premium business service between Germany and US using a fleet of A319LR


This is a lengthened, minimum change version of the A320. The wing area is slightly enlarged and the undercarriage is strengthened, with higher thrust variants of both CFM56 and V2500. Some carriers have bought the A321 over the Boeing 757 as it shares type commonality with the A318, A319, and A320. Type certification was awarded in December 1993 by the JAA.

Typical range with 186 passengers for the A321_100 is about 2,300 nautical miles (4,300 km). It is powered by two CFM56_5 or IAE V2500 engines with a thrust rating of 31,000 pounds (138 kN).

The A321_200 has extra fuel capacity bringing the range with 186 passengers up to about 3,000 nautical miles (5,500 km). The A321_200 is powered by two CFM56_5 or IAE V2500 engines with a thrust rating of about 33,000 pounds (147 kN).


The A318, also known as the "Mini_Airbus", is the smallest member of the A320 family. During development, it was known as the "A319M3," thus indicating its history as a direct derivative of the A319. "M3" indicates "minus three fuselage frames." The aircraft is six meters shorter and 14 tons lighter than its predecessor. Pilots who are trained on the other A320 variants may fly the A318 with no further certification, since it features the same type rating as its sister aircraft.

The A318 has a passenger capacity of 109 in a two_class configuration. It is intended to replace early Boeing 737 and Douglas DC-9 models, though it is also a rival to the current 737-600 and 717, the latter of which is essentially an updated DC-9.

The A318 is available with a variety of different maximum take_off weights (MTOW) ranging from a 59 tonne, 2,750 km (1,500 nautical mile) basic version to a 68 tonne, 6,000 km (3,250 nautical mile) version. The lower MTOW enables it to operate regional routes economically whilst sacrificing range and the higher MTOW allows it to complement other members of the A320 family on marginal routes. The lighter weight of the A318 gives it an operating range of 10% greater than the A320, allowing it to serve some routes that the A320 would be unable to: London-Singapore-Tokyo, for instance. Its main use for airlines, however, is on short, low-density hops between medium cities.

The A318 has one major disadvantage when compared to other A320 variants: its cargo doors are too small to accommodate standard air freight containers, making it nearly useless for carrying large inanimate objects.

During the design process, the A318 ran into several stumbling blocks. The first one, obviously, was the decline in demand for new airplanes following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Another one was the design of the Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines, which burned more fuel than expected: by the time CFMI had a more efficient engine ready for market, many A318 customers had already backed out, including Air China, American Airlines, and British Airways. While Airbus was hoping to market the A318 as a regional jet alternative, laws in both the U.S. and Europe have kept it in the same class as larger aircraft for calculating landing fees and the like, so regional operators haven't touched it.

It is powered by two CFM56_5 or Pratt & Whitney PW6000 with thrust range of between 21,600 to 23,800 lbf (96 to 106 kN) thrust. Launch customers Frontier Airlines, America West and Air France took deliveries in 2003, with Frontier receiving their models in July of that year. The price of an A318 ranges from $39 to $45 million, and operating costs are around $3,000 for a 500-mile flight.

A320 market share

Boeing has shipped 1,500 737s in just 6 years, with a total of 5,415 ordered since the 1960's, compared to 3,117 Airbus A320s ordered since introduction around 15 years ago, making the A320 faster selling on the average (195 aircraft per annum versus 144 aircraft per annum for the 737). The recent trend of fleet renewals by low-cost airlines like easyJet, jetBlue, Air Berlin and Virgin America has favoured the A320 family, thus stagnating the 737's further fleet growth.

However, these sales figures include the Airbus A321, which is intended to compete with another Boeing product, the 757, and the Airbus A318, which is intended to compete with the 717.

According to the Boeing website, the Next-Generation Boeing 737 (-600 to -900) noting that -900 is a perfect replacement for the 757-200, was the fastest plane to reach 1,500 orders, taking 6 years, compared to 13 years for the Airbus A320, and 16 years for the Boeing 727.

Determining the sales winner is largely a matter of which statistics one favors. The 737 is the overall sales winner at 5,499 compared to the A32x at 3,272. Average per-year sales over the lifetime of the entire airframe would place the A32x at 163.6, and the 737 at 141. The total of the current models would place the A32x at 3,272 and the 737NG at 2,367. And the sales of the current models over each year they were on sale would put the 737NG at 215.2 and the A32x at 163.6.

Accident Summary

(As of 2004 for whole A320 Family)

  • Hull-loss Accidents: 11 with a total of 327 fatalities
  • Other occurrences: 2 with a total of 0 fatalities
  • Hijackings: 6 with a total of 1 fatalities

External links

  • Details on the Airbus family of aircraft (http://www.airbus.com/dynamic/product/index_h.asp)
  • History and pictures of the Airbus A319 (http://www.airliners.net/info/stats.main?id=23), A320 (http://www.airliners.net/info/stats.main?id=23), and A321 (http://www.airliners.net/info/stats.main?id=23)
  • Airbus A318 (http://www.airbus.com/product/a318_introduction.asp)
  • Aircraft-Info.net - Airbus A320 (http://www.aircraft-info.net/aircraft/jet_aircraft/airbus/A320/)
  • Airbus A318 (http://www.planemad.net/data/list/Airbus/A318/), A319 (http://www.planemad.net/data/list/Airbus/A319/), A320 (http://www.planemad.net/data/list/Airbus/A320/), A321 (http://www.planemad.net/data/list/Airbus/A321/) Production List
  • Aircraft-Info.net A320 (http://www.aircraft-info.net/aircraft/jet_aircraft/airbus/A320/)
  • Airliners.net A320 Article (http://www.airliners.net/info/stats.main?id=23)
  • Image of Cockpit (http://www.meriweather.com/320/320_main.html)
  • The A320 Project Website (http://www.avsim.com/hangar/flight/a320project/main.html) (Construction of A320 Simulator)
  • A320 accident database (http://www.airdisaster.com/cgi_bin/aircraft_detail.cgi?aircraft=Airbus+A320)

See also

Related content
Related Development
Similar Aircraft

Boeing 717 - Boeing 737 - Boeing 757 - Tupolev Tu-204

Designation Series

A300 - A310 - A318 - A319 - A320 - A321 - A330 - A340 - A350 - A380

Related Lists

List of airliners - List of civil aircraft

List of Aircraft | Aircraft Manufacturers | Aircraft Engines | Aircraft Engine Manufacturers

Airlines | Air Forces | Aircraft Weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation

  Results from FactBites:
Airbus aircraft families - A320 Family - A321 (185 words)
The largest member of Airbus’ A320 Family, the A321 offers the best seat-mile costs of any single-aisle aircraft and brings seating capacities into the realm of the widebody jetliner.
Typical two-class seating capacity for the A321 is 185 seats with 16 in first class and 169 in economy, while the A321 single-class configuation comfortably seats 199 passengers.
Airbus, an EADS Company, is a leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive product line.
EADS N.V. - Airbus A320-Family (816 words)
A320 Airbus family flight - The A320 Family - consisting of the 107-seat A318, 124-seat A319, 150-seat A320 and 185-seat A321 - is the leader in the single-aisle jetliner with firm orders currently standing at more than 5,000 aircraft.
The Airbus (length: 33.84 m, range: up to 6800 km) is the ideal complement for the A318, A320 and A321 for reasons of commonality.
The A321 (a stretched version of the A320 measuring 44.5 m, and with a seating capacity for 185 passengers at ranges of up to 4,350 km) completed its maiden flight on March 11, 1993.
  More results at FactBites »



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