PIPs planned for A220 to improve operating costs

Airbus A220-300, ordered by JetBlue last year. Source: Airbus.

Jan. 17, 2019, © Leeham News: Airbus is planning performance improvement packages for the A220, intended to shave operating costs off an airplane that already beat performance promises.

The PIPs, as the upgrades are known, are common among all airliners. In this case, the PIPs were under study by Bombardier long before Airbus acquired a 50.01% stake in the C Series program last year.

While financially-strapped Bombardier may have been able to find the money to execute, giant Airbus has no problem doing so.

Better than promised

The operational performance of the C Series with Swiss International Airlines and Air Baltic, the initial operators, had long been rumored to be better than Bombardier promises.

When Rob Dewar, the head of the C Series program, was asked about this at the 2018 Southeast Aerospace and Defence Conference organized by Leeham Co. and Airfinance Journal, Dewar acknowledged this was true but demurred on the level. He said more in service experience was desired before revealing the number.

During the Airbus NA Tour this week, Dewar told LNC that the C Series—by now called the A220—was 3% better than promises before the C Series entered service with launch operator Swiss.


Dewar confirmed that PIPs are being planned. He declined to specify any, but it’s long been known that putting doors on the main gear when retracted is one possibility. The wheels are exposed currently, like on the Boeing 737.

The aerodynamic improvement reduces drag, offset by added weight and complexity.

There may be other, small aerodynamic clean up that may be done. These possibilities haven’t been detailed.

An announcement might be made at the Paris Air Show in June.

42 Comments on “PIPs planned for A220 to improve operating costs

  1. there is likely 3+% to be had just in more sophisticated winglets, they have about 3′ of C gate wingspan laying on the table and a very basic winglet.

    Boeing style swept wingtips or APB/MAX style up and down winglets that both add span and do a better job of cleaning up vortices would probably make a big difference

    I believe Boeing looked at wheel pants with the MAX and concluded the weight and complexity offset the ~.25-.5% aero gain.

    there is probably some gain to be made in interference drag at in the nacelle/pylon area and wing root fairings

    P&W has long stated that ~2019 they would be rolling out a ~3% PIP for the GTF, so that with new wingtips and other minor cleanups suggest there is about 7% on the table for relatively small $$

    • I think the +3% to be had from more sophisticated winglets, can’t be correct.
      Winglets offer around 3,5-4,5% efficiency gain, raked wingtips would be max 5,5%. To gain more than 3% the current winglets would need to be extremely inefficient. I agree it looks far from ideal (blended winglet or raked wingtip), but we can assume it’s not less than 2,5% efficient, otherwise Bombardier wouldn’t have bothered with winglets because of the weight penalty.
      Let’s say they could gain 1 to 2% with blended winglets or raked wingtips. Would it be worth the money?

      The 3% mentioned by P&W, am I correct in assuming that would be for all the GTF? A320NEO, E2 and MRJ would all benefit.
      How much is the LEAP getting PIP’ed?

      Supposedly P&W chose to not focus much on high performance in the engine core and claiming that would leave 5-10% gain they could PIP.

      Great news though, 3% more efficient than promised plus 3% PIP makes a big difference to airlines.

    • Boeing got 1% aerodynamic gain by reshaping the rear nose cone.
      As for winglets etc, no need as the wing pressure distribution is matched to the weights and ranges built. Its not an older design wing doing different work with newer engines and higher weights. Extra drag has to be worth it, especially when you are doing short hauls.

      • >Extra drag has to be worth it, especially when you are doing short hauls.

        That’s an interesting thought. Has anyone offered a choice of wingtip treatments based on the aircrafts typical mission profile. So one for aircraft flying long missions and one for short?

    • The A220 winglets looks like MD-11 generation, so Airbus should be able to design a A330neo/A350 style of winglet to give someting in performance and not make it look like something from Douglas in the late 1900’s.

  2. The cost saving will be significant but the increase in range even more so. An extra 200nm would make the A220 much more useful for transatlantic flights to smaller markets.

    • 7% + the 3% they are already outperforming the book takes the book range for the -300 from 3200NMI out to 3500+NMI solidly in the TATL ballpark and more than enough for any flight in north america

  3. Er, does this mean any airline who hasn’t got this on order is now looking at as serious market disadvantage vs their competitors who have?

    Presumably Airbardier are hoping to stimulate an orders rush. Well, seems like they’re pressing a lot of the right buttons pretty hard, and fast.

  4. Tells you what a great job they did on the A220 for sure.

    An Aviation Partners split scimitar winglet option would be good (unless Airbus steals that too (grin)

    The only odd part of the A220 was that winglet, Boeing has gone other direction and they don’t have them on new wings.

  5. I take it a 767-400, P-8 raked tip can’t be used because it is patented by Boeing. When does that patent run out?

      • The P-8 is not a raked tip, it a compromise for the aircraft.

        Winglets had issues of some kind so they did the best they could with it. May have been he lower altitudes it works at or ramp issue.

      • I think the P-8 is a compromise and not effective as the various winglets they put on it for commercial ops.

        I don’t remember the issue, didn’t work with the flight profiles or ramp issues the Navy did not want.

        I am surprised I did not know the 767-400 had that.

        I understood it did not work, they did.

        Maybe the other types now would work better but not a large group of those -400s anyway.

        Most interesting.

        • P8 has a wingspan of 37.64m which is beyond the 36m allowed at the C gates the 737 needs to fit into.

          If your wing can handle the bending moment and you have the space it is usually better to opt for more span than it is to use a winglet. That seems to be what they did.

          • The P-8 is not a Pax bird and the C gates would be irrelevant.

            “One of the features on the P-8 that hints at its future service in antisubmarine work is its wingtips. Unlike the popular performance-enhancing winglets found on many commercial and business aircraft today, the wingtips on the Poseidon are a continuation of the wing, raked backward to better shed ice, given the adverse weather and altitudes the aircraft will be expected to patrol.”

          • To shed ice ?. Not according to Boeing.

            “According to Boeing, the wingtips–not offered to commercial customers because of the additional length they add to the wingspan–give about the same level of performance as the winglet-equipped airplane. The wing also includes additional de-icing equipment. ”
            The anti icing is just in the normal places you would expect as a wing tip won’t affect much of the span

      • “The P-8 is to replace the P-3 Orion.[19] At first, it will be equipped with legacy P-3 systems, but later upgrades will incorporate more advanced technology.”

        The spiral upgrade thing using a good system and then adding to it.

  6. Maybe there is more performance in an all new narrowbody than we have been told. Perhaps there is more to fear from the Chinese and Russians than we have assumed, at least in aircraft performance.

    • I don’t get that.

      The only major upsides is something radical like a TBW and GTF.

      BBD did a fantastic job maximizing current tech in a size no one really had covered.

  7. German website aerothelegraph ist reporting Airbus is also discussion a stretch A220-500


    This would be a dangerous opponent to A320 and B737-8.

    Airbus can then switch the A320neo line to bigger A321neo, A321LR and maybe even another stretch A322 while a ramped up CS pressures Boeings B 737 program.
    And Boeing can’t stretch it’s B737 further. Also the might be busy with the B797 thus have their hands tied and can’t react properly.

    Together with the PIPs and a production ramp up this can be a dangerous bullet against Boeings cash cow.

    And finally the CS would get it’s revenge. I’m pretty sure Boeing now sees that trade complaint against the CS differently.

    • If Boeing is looking “down the road” they would see things quite clearly. I couldn’t muddle through the German website linked story very well, but from I what I gather they respect the Bombardier CSeries technology and effort, and they feel lengthening the plane would be a logical step. When you stop and think that the original DC-9-10 was manufactured in about 8 lengths, the A320 series 4 lengths and the B737 maybe about 9 lengths – then if Airbus gets 500 planes out doing the job cycle after cycle, one would think the market place would demand more iterations.

    • I agree… I think the a320 replacement will be based around the a321 with stretches/shrinks from that to achieve medium/long ranges; and the a220 will mop up the a318-320 segment for short/medium ranges.

      Such a beautiful frame with great passenger appeal.

  8. While there is no reason the A220 cannot be stretched, it does affect range (unless you do a new wing on a very young program.

    Its got Trans Con range now so how that would affect it would be a major factor.

    You have to take the range and subtract the variations in weather, diversions etc to get real capability.

    • At same MTOW sure, but if Airbus finds room for more fuel and structures can handle an increase in MTOW, then perhaps not. Given the PIPs coming it may not even take that much of an increase in MTOW to keep current range.

      Field performance will definitely be worse though.

      • More fuel is easy, just as the 737 and A320 long range versions have fuel tanks added to under floor freight/baggage compartments.
        Best place is wing, for structural reasons, but modern planes are now introduced into service with maximum wing fuel load available as long range is a major selling point. ( if you dont need that range you buy lower thrust version of the engines) Thus the way to go further is reduce payload or more economical engines.
        The early model 747-100s had a range of only 4500nm or so, increased thrust engines allowed more wing and centre box tanks to be used for 7600nm in the 747-400ER

  9. The A220/(CS) still in its infant shoes, so a rework of the wing(lets) plausible early in production aka 350-900 wing lets, etc. before a major production ramp-up.

    Aero clean-ups, engine PIP’s (increased max thrust?) could pave the way for an ~3800NM A220-300XR. Had the privilege to to fly in CS100/300’s (delivered names) three times and they are really in a class above the rest, so hopping the pond in one of those could be very comfortable even if you are in the back.

    A relatively small stretch of the A223 (“A220-500”) by 15-25 seats with a range of ~2800Nm will offer airlines a real winner in terms of seat mile cost and passenger comfort. Boston to San Diego for example is “only” 2300Nm.

    An A220-500 could hit the sweet spot for optimizing the CS/A220 design and with possible PIP’s pave the way for an A320Plus.

    • I’ve not been on a C Series yet myself, but there’s numerous reports such as yours attesting to their increased comfort levels. It’s on my “buy” list; I’ll pay extra for a ticket if there’s a choice of aircraft on the route I want to fly.

      For airlines that’s probably good news; it’s cheaper for them to fly it. Double whammy.

      Ok I’m not necessarily your average ticket buyer, but it’s undoubtedly the case that A380, A350, probably 787 (I’ve not been on one) have shown the flying public that there are ways of getting around the world that don’t involve agonising levels of discomfort in economy class (KLM 777 at 10 across being an appalling example. Even my ancient 5’2″ mother knows to avoid those). A major airline running the C Series in bulk in the US domestic market is going to re-educate the buying American public about the art of the possible for a competitive ticket price.

      The C Series has raised the bar, and that’s probably going to result in market share for the operators and sales figures for Airbardier.

      • Sidebar: USA Government shutdown looks to delay Delta’s A220-100 original entry into service that was supposed to start in about one week. I’m not naming names, I don’t judge, I just report this probable fact.

      • Definitely worth it and something to look forward to. Not sure if its a general PW-GTF thing as I haven’t been on an A320/1NEO but the engines do have an “odd” sound during descent/final approach.

  10. The average trip for South West and Ryanair is about 1000nm,narrow bodies are getting longer range and the new style dense seating is unacceptable for more than a couple hours. Logically there should be a split in the types of aircraft used by ULCC.

    • Do you have some attribution to those ranges?

      It sounds way high.

      I have followed some US flights and saw stages of 250 miles and that was United I believe.

      Not saying they all are, but it seems there are a fair number smaller hops mixed with longer.

      1000 mile hops around Europe seem excessive.

    • “In 2017, the (SW) Company’s average aircraft trip length was 754 miles”

      “Ryanair flies an average route length of 770 miles “

      • Centre for aviation says 1001miles,as you quote South West says 754miles and they should know.
        Thats a lot of unnecessary aluminium/carbon being carted about for most trips. I can’t work out what percentage of trips could be performed by an A220 500 but Scott and Bjorn can probably have a stab at it,in fact I’m sure that they already work.Would it even be worth the biggest ULCCs splitting into 2 divisions?

  11. Reported two hours CVR on the 737-8MAX loss, should be available Tuesday

    • Indeed, after some uncertainty it looks like Airbus is all in and their strategy is becoming clear. With a -500 stretch Airbus can cover the range from about 100 to 180 at great cost per seat mile. Then they have the A32x family with more development left both in size and range. Both programs at relatively low cost. Those low cost programs give Airbus time to consider its next move – build an all new single aisle or do a Neo-neo.

      But Boeing is a bit snookered. Because the E195E2 is as big as it can get Boeing is looking at developing two aircraft to cover the range from the E195E2 to the 787-8. A new single aisle and the new middle of the market. A NSI is especially tricky because any A220-500 will probably be ramped up and have the market to itself for some time before an NSI is available in volume. In the mean time the long range A32x’s will be eating into the bottom end of the NMM market.

  12. Funny how this is the greatest plane ever… and nobody wants to order it after ten years. Sure delta did, but they missed out on the a320neo and need airplanes fast if the 717s cycle out and 88s and bad idea Md90s get parked. Poor planning on delta’s part is not a testament to bombardier. That’s an RJ. Nobody needs a 3000 mile range RJ, that was silly.

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