Airbus To Begin Flight Trials of New A320neo Engine Options

By Features Dow Jones Newswires

Airbus Group NV plans to begin flight trials of its most successful new plane this week.

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The first flight of the A320neo, for "new engine options," is due to take place on Sept. 25 weather conditions permitting, John Leahy, chief operating officer for customers at Airbus's commercial plane unit, said at the ISTAT Europe conference. Takeoff is planned for 10:30 a.m. local time.

The A320neo, which places more fuel efficient engines on the single-aisle plane, is the best selling program Airbus has ever launched. The company has booked more than 3,250 orders for the upgraded jetliner. Around 6,000 of the current-model A320 family of jets, which first flew in 1987, are in service.

The A320neo, which went on sale in late 2010, has outsold Boeing Co.'s 737 Max, a similar engine upgrade to the U.S. plane maker's best-selling narrow-body plane. Boeing introduced its plane in 2011.

The A320neo comes with engines from Pratt & Whitney, the engine arm of United Technologies Corp., and a joint venture of General Electric Co. and Safran SA. The Pratt & Whitney powered version is due to fly first and enter service in October 2015 with Qatar Airways.

Mr. Leahy said Pratt & Whitney also is working on an engine upgrade that should boost efficiency by a further 2% in 2019. The Franco-American engine joint venture is making similar plans although they are not completed, he said.

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Airbus plans to upgrade three of its single-aisle models, the A320, followed by the smaller A319 and then its largest single-aisle jet, the A321. The poorly selling A318, the smallest in the family of jetliners, won't be upgraded.