A team at Airbus’s plant in Filton, UK, has designed, built and tested a package of aerodynamic improvements for the A320neo meant to increase wing lift at low speeds, the company recently revealed. The option, dubbed “SHARP” (SHort AiRfield Package), enhances takeoff and landing performance for operations on short runways.
A key component of the package—a Kevlar composite panel modification to the wing’s ‘Root Fillet Fairing’—allows for the improved landing performance. Airbus said the impetus for the modification arose from a desire to allow A320neo operations into Rio de Janeiro’s Santos Dumont airport, whose runway extends only some 1,300 meters (4,265 feet) in length. Along with the short runway, a mountain to one side and a long bridge on the other add to the landing challenge. Airbus said it has identified several operators that would like to fly A320neos into the airport.
The UK team, working with their engineering colleagues in Bremen, Germany, had considered various proposals to reduce the approach speed at landing, said Airbus. The modification to optimize the airflow over the root fillet fairing panel, expected to be available as a retrofit, prove the ultimate “winner.” Construction of a test panel took place in Filton's “ProtoSpace” facility using so-called rapid prototyping additive layer manufacturing (ALM) technology to "3D-print" the molds. The process then involves the layering of fiberglass into the molds to create the new panel before final finish and paint. Metrology experts then scanned the panel to ensure that they fully understood the exact profile under test. The prototype’s subsequent flight testing in Toulouse proved successful and the engineering and industrial teams have begun finalizing the design for production.