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.”
“We felt at home,” added A320neo first flight Captain Philippe Pellerin. “This brand new baby is very promising!”
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.
“It is an unforgettable day. It felt great from the inside and looks absolutely fantastic from the outside,” said Sandra Bour Schaeffer, Airbus’ NEO Project Flight Test Manager, who was onboard the maiden flight and is responsible for all A320neo Family flight test activities. “It took a huge amount of teamwork to prepare the first flight and it was absolutely perfect.”
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.
Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer Fabrice Brégier said the NEO programme is a prime example of the company’s incremental innovation strategy, citing the new engine option family’s more than 3,200 total orders received from 60 customers.
“We have 60 per cent market share so far, and we believe we will continue to lead the way with this fantastic A320neo Family,” he added during planeside comments after the no.1 aircraft’s successful landing. “It’s just the beginning for this programme!”
Visit Airbus’ dedicated A320neo page.
All media in this article is courtesy of Airbus.