Military Factory logo

Airbus A320 - France, 1988

Detailing the development and operational history of the Airbus A320 Narrow-Body Short-to-medium Route Passenger Airliner.

 Entry last updated on 10/31/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Airbus A320  
Picture of Airbus A320
Picture of Airbus A320

The A320 family of jet airliners has enjoyed considerable market success for Airbus - becoming a staple of many global operators.

The A320 family of jet airliners was introduced on April 18th, 1988 with launch carrier Air France in a move by the company to corner the narrow-body jet airliner market (facing competition from both Boeing and Douglas at the time). The series is intended for short-to-medium range routes and is powered by a pair of underslung turbofan engines. Key customers include American Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, and EasyJet. Production of the series has been ongoing since 1986 and some 7,400 of the type have been produced / delivered (as of late-2016).

The Airbus A320 family includes the A318, A319, A320 and A321. The A320neo (neo = "New Engine Option") is another derivative introduced as a narrow-body, twin-engine passenger hauler in 2016 (Lufthansa). These give the customer engine options centering on either the CFM International LEAP-1A or Pratt & Whitney PW1000G series engines. The introduction of "neo" has led to the original A320 model line being referred to as "ceo" (ceo = "Current Engine Option").

The A320 series was formed from the A300 series work and emerged in the early 1970s. While the A300 (A310) was always intended for the long-range market, its variant could be developed for shorter routes using the same framework. Serious work on the project occurred in the late-1970s and the project was officially born in early-1981 as the "A320". The design was to carry around 150 passengers out to 3,440 kilometers. Engineers were allowed to feature Fly-by-Wire (FbW) control systems - the first commercial airliner to rely on this digitally-assisted control scheme commonly found on military-grade fighter-type aircraft. A first-flight by way of prototype was had on February 22nd, 1987 and Type Certification was reached on February 26th, 1988. Service entry occurred in March 1988. Deliveries of the A320 family truly ramped up at the end of the 1990s to which point the line overtook the competing Boeing 737.

The A320 was initially seen in two major variants: A320-100 and A320-200. The -100 saw only modest product with just twenty-one aircraft completed. The -200 model incorporated wingtip fencing as well as an increase to fuel capacity, enabling longer, more fuel-efficient flights to be undertaken. Both were 150-passenger models. The -200 mark enjoyed a healthier production run numbering thousands.

The A321 was a stretched fuselage offering (increased by 22.8 feet). A first-flight was recorded on March 11th, 1993 and service entry followed in January of 1994 (Lufthansa). The A321-200 was a longer-ranged model with more powerful engines.

The A319 was a short-fuselage model (decreased by 12.2 feet) with 124-passenger capability. Various engine options became available to customers. Service introduction followed in April 1996 (SwissAir). The A319CJ became the "Corporate Jet" version of the mark (rebranded to "ACJ319").

The A318 was revealed as an even more compact A320 offering with seating for 132 passengers. Service entry was in July of 2003 (Frontier Airlines). Its main advantage became short, steep approach capabilities allowing it access to runways in more densely populated areas.

Attempts to produce a freighter-minded version of the A320 ultimately failed, the initiative started in mid-2008 and ended in mid-2011. However, there exists an attempt to convert existing A320 airframes to freighter forms (2015).

In all cases, the A320 family is crewed by just two personnel in the cockpit. Passenger numbers naturally vary between the designs though dimensions and performance are more-or-less comparable from one mark to the next. MTOW do vary significantly, the A318 listed at 150,000lb against the A321's 206,000lb rating for instance. Service ceilings are up to 12,500 meters across the board. The powerplant of choice is the CFM International CFM56-5B series turbofan though the PW6000A and IAE V2500A5 are alternative fittings. As such, thrust output and, in some cases performance, are affected between the marks.

The A320 family is operated globally with the largest customer being American Airlines (378 examples). Other operating countries include Australia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, Egypt, El Salvador, Germany, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Libya, Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan (among others).

The A3XX program product is slated to replace the A320 series in the Airbus lineup. However, it is not expected to become available until the mid-2020s.

March 2017 - An Airbus A319neo recorded a first-flight on March 31st, 2017. The flight lasted five hours and ranged from Hamburg to Toulouse.

April 2017 - The A321neo is expected to enter service in 2017 and challenge the out-of-production Boeing 757 series.

April 2017 - First-flight of the A319neo is scheduled for sometime in 2017.

September 2017 - The A320neo series will begin deliveries sometime in 2020.

October 2017 - JetBlue has become the launch customer for the new Airspace A320 model series.

October 2017 -The first A320neo aircraft built in Tianjin, China was delivered to its customer, AirAsia.

Airbus A320-200 Specifications

Service Year: 1988
Status: Active, In-Service
Type: Narrow-Body Short-to-medium Route Passenger Airliner
National Origin: France
Manufacturer(s): Airbus - France
Total Production: 7,771

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 2
Overall Length: 123.26 feet (37.57 meters)
Overall Width: 117.45 feet (35.80 meters)
Overall Height: 38.55 feet (11.75 meters)

Weight (Empty): 93,917 lb (42,600 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 155,999 lb (70,760 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 2 x CFMI CFM56-5 OR IAE V2500 turbofan engines developing between 25,400 and 27,000 lb of thrust.

Maximum Speed: 470 knots (541 mph; 870 kph)
Maximum Range: 3,078 nautical miles (3,542 miles; 5,700 km)
Service Ceiling: 39,370 feet (12,000 meters; 7.46 miles)

Armament / Mission Payload


Global Operators (Customers, Users)

Australia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Brunei; Canada; China; Colombia; Croatia; Czech Republic; Denmark; Dominican Republic; Greece; Ecuador; Egypt; El Savador; Finland; Germany; Hong Kong; India; Iran; Iraq; Japan; Jordan; Libya; Mauritius; Moldova; Myanmar; Namibia; New Zealand; Pakistan; Philippines; Portugal; Russia; Saudi Arabia; South Korea; South Africa; Sweden; Taiwan; Thailand; Turkey; Ukraine; United Kingdom; United States; Uzbekistan; Vietnam; Yemen

Model Variants

A320 (A320ceo) - Base Series Designation
A320-100 - 21 produced
A320-200 - Wingtip fences; increased range through increased fuel capacity; 4,108 examples produced (up to 2016).
A321 (A321ceo) - Model family variant of A320; introduced in 1994; stretched fuselag form; 1,433 examples produced; service entry 1994.
A321-200 - Increased range model with extra internal fuel tanks.
A321neo - "New Engine Option" model; CFM International LEAP-1A or PW1100G series engines offered; 1,416 examples (up to 2016).
A321LR - Long-range model; increased MTOW
A318 - Compact variant of A320; 69 produced (up to 2016).
A319 (A319ceo) - Shortened fuselage variant of A320 model; 1,440 produced (up to 2016).
A319CJ - Corporate Jet variant
A320 / A321 Freighter - Possible freighter conversion program models.
A320neo - New Engine Option variant; more efficient engines installed (CFM International LEAP-1A or Pratt & Whitney PW1100G).

Images Gallery