By: Cathy Buyck
While holding back—for now—on developing a stretch version of the A220, Airbus has decided to increase the maximum takeoff weight (mtow) of the type by an additional 2.3 tonnes (5,000 pounds). The new mtow will increase the respective maximum range capabilities to 3,350 nm for the A220-300 and 3,400 nm for the smaller A220-100, some 450 nm more than currently advertised.
“This new mtow will allow operators to reach markets which today cannot be served by other small single-aisle aircraft types,” Airbus chief commercial officer Christian Scherer said Tuesday at the company’s Innovation Days press briefings in Toulouse. He told AIN a “lot of demand” exists for the A220 with the higher mtow, pointing out that the company considers and treats the aircraft—formerly called the Bombardier C Series—as a genuine Airbus product. “In true Airbus tradition we improve our products constantly,” he said. The added range could support routes between Western Europe and the Middle East or from Southeast Asia to Australia, according to Airbus.
Airbus achieved the performance increase by taking credit of existing structural and systems margins as well as existing fuel volume capacity. The current basic mtow stands at 60.8 tonnes for the A220-100 and 67.6 tonnes for the A220-300. With the new mtow increase, the respective aircraft’s mtow will total 63.1 tonnes for the A220-100 and 69.9 tonnes for the A220-300. Airbus will offer the higher-mtow A220 from the second half of 2020.
Scherer said that improving the capability of the fly-by-wire A220 would not prompt Airbus to end production of the A319. “We will continue to satisfy the customer with both products,” he said. Transport Canada in January certified the model for 180-minute extended operations (Etops), theoretically allowing airlines to deploy the A220 on some transatlantic routes. But, said Scherer, “before we see many A220s flying transatlantic we will see many more A321s flying transatlantic.”
Airbus holds orders for 536 A220s from 21 customers and estimates a market of 7,000 aircraft in the 100- to 150-seat category over the next 20 years. Sixty-eight A220s now fly with five operators—Swiss International, AirBaltic, Korean Air, Delta Air Lines, and Air Tanzania. It delivered 11 examples in the first four months of the year.
Scherer did not want to comment on a question about Airbus’s possible interest in acquiring the Belfast, Northern Ireland-facilities that Bombardier put up for sale last month, explaining the decision lies with other executives at Airbus. However, he indicated, “wings are important.” Collaboration with Bombardier, which still retains a 31-percent stake in the A220 program, on developing the aircraft continues, he said. The conversations do not include the future of the Bombardier’s CRJ program, the only commercial aviation program the Canadian manufacturer still controls.
Monday’s signing of the long-awaited bilateral civil aviation safety agreement between the EU and China should facilitate the certification of the A220 by the Chinese authorities and the introduction of the model in the Chinese market, Scherer asserted.