A developmental study for an enhanced A380 with even better economics and improved operational performance was unveiled at the start of this week’s Paris Air Show, where Airbus also announced the extension of its “Airspace” cabin brand to the A320 Family.
These steps underscored Airbus’ commitment to the continuous evolution of its product line with improvements for both airline operators and the passengers they fly.
The A380plus developmental study involves five enhancement elements: aerodynamic improvements for a reduction in fuel burn; an increase in the number of available seats in the upper and lower deck cabins; improvements to onboard systems; changes to the maintenance schedule; and a higher maximum take-off weight.
“We’ve spoken to our existing customers and have received positive feedback on the improvements envisioned for the A380plus,” said Frank Vermeire, Head of A380 Marketing at Airbus Commercial Aircraft.
A wide range of enhancements for A380plus
New winglets and other aerodynamic refinements to the wing are expected to result in up to 4 per cent reduction in fuel burn. These new winglets – shown for the first time on an A380 at the Paris Air Show – would be larger than the wingtip fences used today, but their design ensures the A380’s overall dimensions remain within the 80 x 80-meter envelope developed from the start by Airbus for the jetliner’s compatibility with airport infrastructure.
Recently-announced “cabin enablers” offered for A380s – including redesigned access stairs between decks, sidewall stowage removal, and new seating configurations – could be combined with a maximum take-off weight increased by three tonnes for the A380plus. This enables up to 80 additional seats to be fitted while maintaining the A380’s current flight range of 8,200 nm. – bringing total capacity up to 575 passengers. Alternatively, the aircraft’s range could be extended by 330 nm. at today’s passenger capacity.
Improvements to system components proposed in the A380plus configuration range from a fourth-generation passenger in-flight entertainment system to fuel pumps with high-slip induction motors derived from A350 XWB jetliner, which have simplified electronics for enhanced reliability. A new flight management system (the specialized computer that assists the flight crew in navigating the aircraft) also is offered in the A380plus definition.
Staying ahead of the competition with A380plus
Lastly, a modified maintenance calendar for the A380plus would enable the aircraft to spend more time aloft earning revenue. “By extending the maintenance intervals, an A380plus could produce $1 million net-present-value savings over 15 years,” said Vermeire. What’s more, he added, “every year, an A380plus would spend an average of six additional days flying instead of in a maintenance hangar – resulting in approximately $27 million in additional revenue.”
All told, these improvements add up to a 13 per cent operating cost-per-seat reduction for an A380plus compared to the current A380. “The market around the A380 is constantly moving,” concluded Vermeire. “We see the improvements in the A380plus as a great step to make the A380 even more efficient, ensuring it stays well ahead of the competition, while still offering passengers a unique flying experience in the best cabin in the sky.”
Cabin innovation: “Airspace by Airbus” comes to the A320 Family
The “Airspace by Airbus” concept for innovation in jetliner cabins, originally tailored for the widebody A350 XWB and the upcoming A330neo, is now available for the A320 Family – bringing market-leading comfort, innovation and design to the company’s single-aisle product line.
“By expanding the design language of Airspace by Airbus to our A320 Family, we will create a real family feel among these three aircraft types,” explained Paul Edwards, the Head of Design and Brand Management at Airbus Commercial Aircraft. “The Airspace cabin brand is built around four key pillars: comfort, ambience, services and design, which together create a more comfortable, relaxing and attractive environment for passengers, while providing a platform for airline operators to promote their brand.”
Edwards said Airspace already is equipped on more than 80 in-service A350 XWBs, with extremely positive passenger feedback.
New overhead bins for the A320 Family with Airspace
Passengers on A320 Family jetliners in both the NEO (New Engine Option) and CEO (Current Engine Option) versions will be able to enjoy Airspace’s unmatched comfort experience from 2020.
Among the cabin features specifically for Airspace-equipped A320 Family aircraft are completely new overhead stowage bins. Developed in a fixed configuration rather than the tilt-down bins widely used today, they accommodate bags as large as 24 x 16 x 10 inches and provide 40 per cent more volume. This simple-but-stylish solution offers unprecedented space for luggage while enhancing the boarding experience for passengers and cabin crewmembers alike.
New welcome lighting in the entrance area and iconic ceiling lighting complement the full-colour RGB mood lighting system, helping to create a unique mood, ambience and atmosphere.
In addition, A320 Family lavatories are updated to match the Airspace features developed for the A330neo and A350 XWB – including ambient sound, aroma dispensers and antibacterial surfaces – further enhancing this area. Careful interior arrangement and clever design provides improved spaciousness as well.
Edwards said the lavatory enhancements are considered by Airbus as an important element for the enhanced in-flight experience with Airspace, adding: “other than the passenger seat, this is one the area aboard an aircraft that is visited by almost everyone while airborne.”
Giving “every single millimetre” to passengers
For the A320 Family’s Airspace cabin, Airbus has placed an emphasis on personal space. “We’ve increased the width of the cabin by approximately an inch in the important head and shoulder areas,” Edwards said. “The designers worked very closely with engineers, and found every millimetre we could to give back to the passenger.”
Further boosting the personal space are new ergonomic sidewalls that also improve visibility thanks to improved window surrounds with shades that fully retract when in the raised position.
Airbus makes Paris Air Show headlines on opening day
In addition to announcing the expansion of “Airspace by Airbus” and introducing the A380plus developmental study, Airbus opened the Paris Air Show with two commercial order announcements from leasing customers.
GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS), the aviation leasing and financing arm of GE, signed a firm order for 100 A320neo Family jetliners, to be powered by CFM International LEAP-1A engines. This order increases the total number of Airbus jetliners ordered by GECAS to almost 600 – of which 220 are members of the A320neo Family.
“The feedback from our customers [on the A320neo] has been extremely positive in terms of fuel efficiency and noise abatement,” said Alec Burger, President and CEO of GECAS at a press conference in the Airbus pavilion at Le Bourget Airport. “This contract is a continuation of a great relationship with Airbus, and we look forward to the road ahead.”
Separately, Air Lease Corporation placed a firm order for 12 additional A321neo aircraft, raising the overall number of Airbus jetliners which it has received, or are on order, to 279 – of which 209 are from the single-aisle A320 Family and the other 70 are widebodies.
Airbus also welcomed a very important guest today to the Paris Air Show, with French President Emmanuel Macron arriving in the morning for his official visit and exhibit tour aboard an Airbus A400M military airlifter operated by the French Air Force.
During the inbound flight, Macron watched the A400M’s flight crew in action – riding in a cockpit jump seat. After landing at Le Bourget Airport, the French president was accompanied by Airbus Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders for a walkaround of the company’s aircraft on display.