As if to upstage its U.S. rival, Airbus flew the A319neo for the first time on Friday from its factory site in Hamburg, Germany, on the same day the Boeing 787-10 took off for its preannounced first flight from the grounds of the company’s Charleston, South Carolina, final assembly plant. The smallest version of Airbus’s A320neo family left Hamburg at 11:13 a.m. local time and landed at the company’s headquarters in Toulouse, France, at 4:10 p.m.
Powered by a pair of CFM International Leap-1A turbofans, the airplane will remain in Toulouse to complete the rest of its flight-test program. During the maiden five-hour mission, experimental test pilots Michel Gagneux and Eckard Hausser assessed general handling of the aircraft and checked its main systems. Test-flight engineer Jean Michel Pin assisted in the cockpit while two flight-test engineers, Sylvie Loisel-Labaste and David O’nions, directed the flight from the aircraft’s test engineer station.
Airbus has now flown all three of its Neo narrowbody models. Some 90 A320neos—powered by both Leaps and Pratt & Whitney PW1100G turbofans—operate in service with 20 airlines around the world. Although the Pratt & Whitney-powered A321neo gained its certification in December and the Leap-powered version of the largest neo won EASA approval in early March, Airbus has yet to deliver a single example. The company has yet to announce a launch customer for either the A321neo or A319neo.
Out of a total of more than 5,000 firm orders for the Neo family, the A319neo has drawn only 55. Airbus has identified only two airline customers: South America's Avianca and Frontier Airlines of the U.S., which together have placed orders for 43, while unidentified customers and government operators account for another 12 airplanes.