On Thursday afternoon at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France, the Airbus A320neo completed its maiden flight, kicking off a trial period of 3,000 flight hours. She flew for about two and a half hours, powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-JM engines.
Why is this important to you? Because 60 different airlines have ordered over 3,200 of these planes! It's highly likely that you'll be flying on one of these planes in the not too distant future. U.S. carriers including American, jetBlue, Spirit and Virgin America have ordered them. United and Delta also fly the A320 so there's the potential that they'll order the new version as well. Airbus president and CEO Fabrice Bregier said:
"I congratulate the whole A320neo development team, ground crew and air crew for making this day happen. The A320neo which has taken to the air today builds on the outstanding success of the A320 Family. The aircraft through its incremental innovations combines the most efficient engine and aerodynamic technologies, as well as new cabin features to bring to market a product which will consume 20 percent less fuel per passenger."
Airbus test pilots celebrate the completion of the A320neo first flight (via Airbus)
The A320neo is also available with CFM LEAP 1A turbofans. The "neo" in the plane's name stands for New Engine Option. Airbus realized it's best not to mess with a good thing, and kept the A320 pretty much the same, except for new engines, which are more fuel efficient. And of course, having better fuel efficiency is beneficial to airlines. Airbus' biggest competitor, Boeing also has an upgraded plane coming up in the same market segment — the 737MAX. Airbus got into the game first, however. They expect to deliver the first A320neo to launch customer Qatar Airways late next year, while Boeing doesn't plan to deliver its first 737MAX until 2017.
Top photo via Airbus