Yesterday in Toulouse, France, Airbus completed the maiden flight of it’s Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-powered version of the A319neo. This variant’s maiden flight comes two years after the first flight of the A319neo, powered by CFM LEAP-1A engines. This successful first flight is another step towards certification and subsequent entry into service of the smaller A320-family member.
Amidst a backdrop of grey and cloudy skies, the plane (MSN 6464) took off at 12:30 from Airbus Headquarters in Toulouse. It was in the air just short of three hours, finally landing at 15:20. It was flown by a total of five crew members: Captain Philippe Castaigns, First Officer Shaun Wildey, flight test engineers David O’Nions, Frank Hohmeister, and Cedric Favrichon.
Just the beginning of test flights
The certification process will continue with many more extensive tests taking place and hundreds of additional hours spent in the air. Airbus is hoping to gain official certification by the FAA and EASA by the fourth quarter of this year. By comparison, the maiden flight of the A319neo LEAP-1A variant occurred in March 2017. It finally received certification in December 2018. This was only after conducting a flight test campaign consisting of roughly 500 flight hours.
How it fits into the Airbus lineup
The A319neo is the last model of the A320 family to enter flight testing. Meanwhile the A320neo and A321neo are already operational and serving airlines all over the world. The shortest member of it’s siblings, the A319neo seats 140 passengers in a two class configuration or up to 160 in a high-density layout. It will have a maximum range of 3,750 nautical miles and include the sharklets we’re used to seeing on Airbus narrowbody planes.
As of March 31st, Airbus officially reported having 35 orders for the A319neo while Wikipedia reports the backlog currently sits at 56. However, this the figure may now be out of date and back down into the 30s with Avianca removing their order. The South American airline has been struggling recently.
This plane occupies a very interesting place in the Airbus family. This is because of the acquisition of the CSeries program from Bombardier. The CSeries, renamed the A220 carries roughly the same number of passengers with a slightly lower range. Airbus president of commercial aircraft Guillaume Faury says:
There will be less A319s with the A220… but we will still keep the product … Yes, there is competition between the two products, but in some cases the A319 still has superiority.
What about you? Are you excited to see the A319neo continue it’s progress towards certification and entry into service? And if you had a choice would you prefer to fly in a brand new A319neo or an A220? Let us know in the comments!