July 08, 2012
Airbus has ended the conceptual design phase for the Airbus A320NEO and the A319NEO, freezing the basic definition of the aircraft. “We have confirmation of performance, all suppliers are engaged and the financial and market assumptions have been confirmed, too,” says Klaus Roewe, senior VP for the A320NEO family.
“We will start to cut metal in the very near term.”
Airbus launched the NEO program in December 2010 and has since received 1,425 firm orders. The first A320NEO with Pratt & Whitney’s PW1100G-JM engines is planned to be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2015 followed by the CFM Leap-1A version in the second quarter of 2016.
“The program is on track, but the schedule is tight,” Roewe says.
Airbus says the aircraft will be “good enough for the next decade” as the availability of new technologies to warrant a clean-sheet design is not expected until at least 2015. “We will make further investments only when the technology is mature,” Roewe notes, adding, “An all-new aircraft will have to be at least 15% better to justify a $15 billion investment. It will be quite a while.”
The manufacturer sees demand for up to 12,000 aircraft in the NEO category until 2030 that is not covered by the existing backlog of orders. Airbus says the NEO will achieve a 15% fuel burn advantage over the current A320 variants.
The NEO family will have sharklets as a standard feature; the devices are to be introduced on the classic A320s by the end of this year. Airbus expects the wing tips devices to reduce fuel burn by 3% on typical missions.
Airbus currently has 1,200 people working on the NEO program and Roewe estimates that around 5,000 are assigned to the NEO when suppliers are included. The peak of the engineering effort will be reached in 2013, before Airbus can “start to ramp down resources on the engineering side.”
The A321NEO still is in the concept phase, because it has some components that are unique to it and that “still need some extra work,” says Roewe.