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Five years on: The A320neo

March 2, 2021

By John Walton

For many who followed the development of Airbus’ A320neo family of aircraft very closely during the first half of the 2010s, it will seem astounding that this aircraft — which feels brand new — entered into service five years ago. Since then, Airbus has delivered nearly 1700 of the A320neo family across the world, with aircraft operating for full-service airlines, low-cost carriers, all-business outfits, and everyone in between.

Image - John Walton

The basics of any re-engining, particularly one where the efficiency jump is as substantial as the CFM International LEAP-1A and the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G, are almost self-evident at this point: lower emissions, less fuel, quieter. But it’s Airbus’ layered, 'little bang' strategy of decoupling major airframe changes and working incrementally that has been successful in derisking the evolution of the A320 into the A320neo and the aircraft we know today. Even when elements of change caused delays — and to be sure, some did — there wasn’t an amplifying effect.

Airbus decoupled the sharklets and the reinforced wing they required from the neo step change and its certification, from the Space-Flex galley-lav, from the LR and XLR, from the Cabin Flex doors for the A321neo, from the new FACC bins, from the Airspace cabin for the A320neo family, and so on.

And the aircraft has persuaded the market. The inherent airframe limitations of the Boeing 737 that have hamstrung the MAX — putting aside entirely the scandal around the aircraft’s design and certification — mean that substantially more customers have been convinced by the neo than its competition.