With the global aerospace industry focused on Toulouse, France, the initial NEO aircraft – powered by Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower PW1100G-JM engine – took off at noon local time from Runway 32L at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport, ascending through clear skies.
The jetliner performed an approximately two-and-a-half-hour evaluation before landing back in Toulouse to the cheers and applause of the crowd gathered on-site, which included top executives from Airbus, its Airbus Group parent company and NEO programme partners.
“The aircraft really feels like an A320, which is great news,” said Airbus Flight Test Pilot Etienne Miche De Malleray, who was in the cockpit for this historic flight. “I’m looking forward to flying it again as soon as possible.”
The five-member crew aboard Airbus’ no. 1 A320neo to fly performed initial system checks and commenced the process of opening up the flight envelope, starting at an altitude of 6,000 ft. and climbing to 26,500 ft. on today’s mission over Southern France.
Also offered with CFM International’s LEAP-1A powerplant, the A320neo Family will deliver unbeatable fuel efficiency and comfort with two latest-generation engine choices, aerodynamic refinements such as fuel-saving Sharklet wingtip devices and innovative new cabin equipment, fixtures and seat designs.
Today’s mission kicks off Airbus’ NEO flight test and certification programme, which will include some 3,000 flight hours across eight aircraft – a fleet comprising two A320neos, one A321neo and one A319neo for each engine type. This rigorous campaign paves the way for the A320neo’s planned service entry with Qatar Airways in the fourth quarter of 2015.
Compared with current engine option (CEO) aircraft, NEO jetliners are to bring 15 per cent fuel burn savings per seat at service entry, with additional enhancements providing a 20 per cent total improvement by 2020.
The A320neo Family, encompassing the A319neo, A320neo and A321neo, seating up to 160, 189 and 240 passengers respectively, is the world’s best-selling single-aisle aircraft family and the preferred choice with traditional airlines, as well as with the fast-growing low-cost carrier market for which it is now the reference. To date the A320neo has won over 3,200 orders from 60 customers, representing a 60% market share.