While it was an Airbus belonging to Germanwings that crashed in France with 150 people aboard on Tuesday morning, the Airbus A320 family is the best-seller for the European constructor Airbus. The mono-corridor medium-haul plane is the most sold in the world, with a total of more than 11,500 orders and 6,100 in operation. The bi-reactor airplane, partly produced in Belgium, is known for its reliability. According to Airbus, a plane from the A320 family (A318, A319, A320 and A321) takes off or lands every 2.5 seconds somewhere in the world.
Airbus makes 42 A320s every month, and the final assembly line is in Toulouse (France). They plan to up production to 46 a month in 2016. The plane’s capacity ranges from 100 people for the A318 to 185 people. At the end of 2015, Airbus will start delivery of the first A320neos, a remotorised version that uses 20% less fuel per seat than the classic version.
The A320 is partly produced in Belgium, and companies like Sonaca, based in Gosselies (Charleroi), Asco (Zaventem) and BMT Aerospace (Oostkamp) take part in the construction of the mobile part of the plane wings. At the end of 2011, Sonaca will celebrate its 5000th leading edge for an Airbus A320.
In Liège, Techspace Aero is also part of the Airbus program, making low pressure compressors and lubrication elements for one of the two types of motors that can fit the A320.
The A320 is considered particularly reliable, and the counterpart of its American rival, the Boeing 737. Since entering service in 1988, the A320 has had a dozen accidents, according to figures from the AFP.
“It’s a completely approved plane, hyper reliable, very present in European medium-haul fleets, and used all over the world. I would get on one with my eyes closed”, says Pierre Fernemont, head of development at Lille airport. * (Source: Belga)