The potential for a stretched version of the popular A220 has been regularly discussed on Simple Flying. The A220-500 is seen as a natural development of the type, and it seems it is a case of when rather than if the variant will be announced. But what about a further stretch? An A220-900? How far could Airbus go?
How much can you stretch an A220?
We’ve talked extensively about how successful an Airbus A220 stretch could be, with airlines such as Air France and airBaltic already throwing their hats in the ring for a larger variant. Indeed, when Bombardier first designed the A220, then the CSeries, it fully intended to stretch the airframe to make a larger variant.
Plenty of rumors have flown about regarding Airbus’ plans for future A220 models. It seems that the current consensus is it’s only a matter of time before the European planemaker releases an A220-500, but what about something even bigger?
This week, Flieger Faust revealed that Airbus could be looking into multiple variants of the A220, including a -700, -900 and even an A220-1000 ultra-long stretch! Here’s what was reported.
Airbus has asked Bombardier to simulate a stretch
Bombardier uses something called the High Performance Computer (HPC) to test and simulate different aircraft designs. A cluster of computers is used to model, in the finest detail, all phases of flight for an aircraft that only exists on the drawing board.
When Bombardier developed the CSeries, it used the HPC to model the base version, the A220-300, as well as the shortened version, the A220-100. Indeed, Flieger Faust reports that Airbus recently asked Bombardier to fire up the HPC in order to flight test a stretch of the A220, the A220-500, signaling that development of this initial stretch is absolutely on the cards.
Bombardier themselves had already simulated the A220-500, but as the CS500. As Sylvain Faust states, “The CS500 has been “flying” in the HPC years ago already, all tested.” The fact that Airbus has requested further simulations is telling, and suggests we could see an announcement of the A220-500 in the coming months.
And then Airbus asked for more stretches!
Flieger Faust states that an engineer close to the program told them Airbus had also requested something that Bombardier had never done itself. To use the HPC to test much longer stretches of the A220. In fact, Airbus reportedly requested testing of variants they dubbed the A220-700, the A220-900 and the A220-1000!
Can you imagine an aircraft with all the power and efficiency of the A220, but seating as many passengers as an A320? It would be ideal for long and thin routes, connecting underserved or unserved city pairs that don’t warrant a true long-range plane. It would be very interesting to see if any modifications would be needed to the wings or powerplants to support such a long fuselage.
However, it seems unlikely that Airbus would want to release an A220 ultra-stretch any time soon. Already, the A220-300 has put a damper on the A319neo, with the type only receiving 37 orders to date, compared to over 3,000 for both its bigger brothers. The A220-500 is likely to take a further bite out of this potential market too.
The only advantage of the A319neo is the commonality it shares with the rest of the A320 family, making it a better choice than the A220 for airlines which already have a lot of A320s in their fleets.
There would be one advantage to an A200 ultra-stretch, however. Airlines who have a predominantly A220 based fleet, such as airBaltic, could similarly take advantage of the commonality of parts and pilot skills to add larger aircraft to their fleets. However, this is a fairly narrow market right now, so we’d be highly surprised to hear of anything bigger than a -500 stretch for a few years at least.
The good news is that Airbus appears to be seriously contemplating the A220-500. There is clearly a market for the type, and the planemaker is showing increasing signs of interest. Perhaps we’ll see an announcement at Farnborough?
What do you think? Let us know in the comments!