American Details Airbus Order, Milestones Reached on A320 Sharklets and A350 XWB Wing

 - November 22, 2011, 11:37 AM
The first Airbus A320 fitted with fuel-saving "Sharklets" rolled out of the company's assembly hall in Toulouse, France, last week.

American Airlines last week revealed its choice of the Airbus A319 and A321 as part of its A320 family fleet order announced in July 2011. Plans call for the A319s to come equipped with CFM56-5B engines, while IAE V-2500-A5s power the A321. As announced this past July, American plans to take delivery of 130 current-generation aircraft from the Airbus A320 family starting in 2013. Plans call for American to start taking delivery of 130 A320neos in 2017.

All 260 Airbus airplanes to which American committed will feature large, fuel-saving wingtip devices known as Sharklets. Airbus just last week completed installation of the first set of Sharklets on the company’s A320 development aircraft (MSN 001). The company expects to start the flight-test campaign in the “coming weeks.”

Specially designed for the Airbus A320 family, Sharklets will first appear as options on current-generation A320s and then all A320neos. The new wingtip devices stand some eight feet tall and will replace the aircraft’s current wingtip fence. Studies show they will reduce fuel burn by up to 3.5 percent, corresponding to an annual CO2 reduction of around 700 metric tons per aircraft. Airbus also expects Sharklets to enhance the aircraft’s payload-range and takeoff performance.

Meanwhile, as Airbus addresses the first significant development delay of the A350 XWB, assembly of the 105-foot-long carbon fiber wings for MSN1 has started at the company’s recently opened “North Factory” in Broughton, UK

Airbus makes most of the A350 XWB wing out of lightweight carbon composites, including the upper and lower wing covers, stringers, front and rear spars. The new structural design, combined with advanced wing aerodynamics, will contribute to the aircraft’s projected 25-percent fuel burn savings, according to Airbus.

Pre-assembly of ribs, upper and lower covers and fixed leading and trailing edges has already taken place. Plans call for workers to move the components into the main assembly jigs for full wing box integration. Korean Aerospace Industries produces the ribs, while the upper and lower covers come from Airbus plants in Stade, Germany, and Illescas, Spain, respectively. Airbus “extended enterprise” partners–Spirit and GKN–provide the fixed leading and trailing edges.