On August 15, the first Airbus A320 aircraft to be produced at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility in Mobile, Ala., flew for the first time. The flight lasted approximately four hours, during which tests were performed on systems, engines, and structural performance.
The Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility can produce three members of the A320 Family: the A319, A320 and A321. So far, the 36 aircraft delivered since operations began in 2015 have been A321s, making this month’s flight another milestone for the U.S.-based production facility.
The primary structures of the A320 are of composite construction with aramid fiber (AFRP), glass fiber (GFRP) and carbon fiber (CFRP) reinforced polymer. According to aerospace-technology.com, the A320 is the first subsonic aircraft to incorporate composite primary structures.
Airframer.com notes the A320 family receives FRP composites from a wide range of suppliers. Cotesa GmbH provides composites for the aircraft’s rudder fairing and outer flap ribs. EireComposites Teo. provides CFRP for the aircraft’s V2500 engine cowling. Hexcel’s HexTow IM7 carbon fiber is used for the aircraft’s LEAP-1A engine fan blades and containment cases, and the company’s HexPly carbon prepreg is used for the nacelles. TenCate provides carbon prepreg for the aircraft’s pylon covers.
The A320 entered airline service in April 1988. Typically seating 150 passengers in two classes, or up to 180 in a high-density layout for charter and low-cost operations, the A320 is in widespread service around the world, flying routes ranging from short commuter sectors to coast-to-coast U.S. flights. Airbus says the A320 family is the world’s best-selling single aisle product line with 13,241 orders and 7,696 aircraft delivered to 297 customers worldwide (as of July 31, 2017).