Airbus' A318, the newest and smallest addition to the world's most modern airliner family, was certificated today by the European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA), at a ceremony held in Hamburg, Germany.
Approval covers the CFM International CFM56-5B powered version of the new 100-120 seat airliner, paving the way for airline service with European carriers - as well as with those around the world following JAA regulations. US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification is expected in June.
Flight trials of the Airbus A318 began in January last year, with the two aircraft involved having flown some 850 flight hours in around 350 flights with the two engines on offer ? the Pratt & Whitney PW6000 and the CFM56-5B.
They covered the performance of the aircraft in all phases of flight, including an evaluation of handling qualities, which are confirmed as being just like those of the other members of the A320 Family. Trials also included minimum unstick speeds and rejected take-offs, a visit to the hot and high airport at Mexico City, and tests of the aircraft's avionics and air-conditioning.
With all of the flight trials for the CFM56-5B powered version, and most of those needed for the PW6000, already complete, only about a hundred hours remain. These will take place in 2005, with the final, improved, version of the PW6000, leading to certification in November of that year.
First delivery of the Airbus A318, to Denver-based Frontier Airlines, is planned this summer, followed by deliveries to Air France, which begin later this year.
Airbus? A318 allows airlines to extend the passenger comfort of a larger, mainline, aircraft down into a smaller size category, while preserving flight-crew and maintenance commonality with the rest of their fleet. It is thus a natural complement to carriers already operating other members of the world's most successful airliner family, such as the A319, A320 or A321.
For new customers, the Airbus A318 provides an entry-level aircraft into the A320 family.
The Airbus A318 has the same airframe as the rest of the family, but differs in having a slightly shorter fuselage and a taller fin. It is the first Airbus aircraft with laser-beam welded panels in its lower fuselage. Other features include liquid-crystal displays in the cockpit, and overhead-stowage bins that are the largest in their class ? an important advantage in the 100-seater market, where fast turnaround times are important.
The A320 Family has the widest cabin and seats of any single-aisle airliner, making it a firm favourite with passengers, and is the most modern in its class. Features such as fly-by-wire controls and Category 3B autoland are standard, offering airlines unmatched economy and value.
Firm orders for the Airbus A320 Family passed the 3,000 mark last month, when orders from US low-cost carrier jetBlue Airways and Chinese carriers were announced. They highlight the tremendous success of the family, which is now flying with well over 100 airlines around the world.
Airbus is an EADS joint Company with BAE SYSTEMS.