When the no. 1 A320 performed its maiden flight 30 years ago today, few could have predicted how this single-aisle jetliner would transform the air transport industry – and Airbus itself.
The A320’s initial liftoff, performed from France’s Toulouse-Blagnac Airport adjacent to Airbus headquarters, opened new standards with the revolutionary use of digital computerised fly-by-wire controls on a civil airliner, and the introduction of a wider fuselage cross-section that enabled airlines to offer passengers more spacious seats and a wider aisle.
Three decades later, the A320 product line continues as the world’s best-selling single-aisle aircraft family – with total orders for more than 13,000 and a production rate that results in one jetliner coming off an Airbus final assembly line every seven hours.
The numbers logged by the no. 1 A320 during its lifetime as a testbed aircraft were equally impressive. This milestone jetliner was flown by 110 different Airbus test pilots, accompanied by 20 test flight engineers and 70 flight test engineers; with its tasks including the in-flight evaluations of 29 different jet engines, as well as the development and certification of many Airbus systems.
Prior to its retirement in 2016, the no. 1 A320 became “Flight Lab 1,” utilised for tests in support of the European Union-sponsored Clean Sky research initiative and the SESAR Single European Sky research programme.
The A320’s first flight on 22 February, 1987 lasted 3 hours, 23 minutes. Today, an A320 Family jetliner takes off or lands somewhere in the world every two seconds – with more than 7,400 aircraft delivered by Airbus and over 11.5 billion passengers carried.
2016 weren’t easy for airlines around the globe that continue to struggle with ways of finding pilots to fill cockpit seats. 2017 is expected to be an even more pressing year, as Boeing, Airbus and other manufacturers keep accelerating their production, while the already small pool of qualified FOs and PICs grows at a significantly slower pace....
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