Airbus’ A220 gets increased range next year

Discussion
The payload range of the A220 family

In January we wrote: When Airbus compared the range of its different single-aisle aircraft it took the existing figures shared through media and print for each aircraft. A320neo and A321neo were presented with its Airbus numbers, the A220 with the numbers from Bombardier. And the measurement sticks in the two companies weren’t the same.

The result was a shorter range for the A220 than it would have, should all aircraft be compared with the same ruleset.

Now the aircraft are compared with the same ruleset, unfortunately, the Airbus single-aisle rule set. It uses an unrealistically low 90kg for Passengers with Bags when IATA recommends 100kg. Bombardier used 102.1kg.

It also uses an enroute reserve of 3% when the industry uses 5% for these types of flights (Bombardier used 5%). The only change to a more conservative and realistic reserve rule is the 200nm alternate standard in Airbus rules rather than the legacy regional alternate rule of 100nm used in the Bombardier rules.

Both rulesets use 30 minutes of circling at the Alternate as last reserve.

If we introduce the Airbus rules combined with the extra 5,000lb (2,268kg) to 139,000lb MTOW which will be available from 2H 2020 we get a range with the usual A220-100 standard 2 class seating of 108 seats of 3,800nm.

If we do the same exercise for the A220-300 we get a range of 3,500nm when flying 130 passengers in the standard two-class cabin with an MTOW of 154,000lb (69853kg). The difference in range increase for the A220-300 comes from a lack of space for fuel. The MTOW increase is not efficient for the A220-300 unless one flies the aircraft with high-density cabins. The aircraft is fuel limited from 3 tonnes below its MTOW. Fuel stays at 17.5t from a TOW of 66t with the 130 seat cabin at 100% load factor. The rest has to be cargo.

Changed standard seating

Airbus knew the imbalance between the types and changed the seating of both aircraft. The A220-100 now has two rows of Domestic First class at four abreast with 36-inch pitch (as before) and Economy at five abreast with 30-inch pitch (was 32-inch) for 116 seats in total.

When we put 116 passengers in the A220-100 we get still get 3,700nm so something else was changed as well. Most likely the Operational Empty Weight.

The larger A220-300 was changed from a two class 130 seater to a 141 seater, once again by changing the economy pitch to 30 inches. Here some rows have less than 30 inches to achieve 141 seats. For the A220-300 we can agree on the 3,350nm range. The aircraft is fuel limited and the maximum range doesn’t improve much with the last tonnes of TOW. The fuel limitation starts 2.5t below the MTOW with the increased seating and further down with the old seating.

Conclusion

The Airbus A220 series have a very long range for its size class. The -100 was previously artificially limited in range by its MTOW. It’s a so-called “Cut and Shut” shrink of the larger and heavier -300. So it has the same wing, landing gear and systems as the A220-300. It’s just shorter. As such it could have an MTOW on the same level as the -300.

Now it will have an MTOW of 139,000lb (63,049kg) from 2H 2020. Then it flies longer than any other Airbus single-aisle except for the A319neo and the A321LR. They both fly another 100-200nm with the same rules, but only when equipped with extra belly tanks. With standard fuel, the A319neo and the A321LR have a shorter range than an A220-100.

The fuel limitation of the A220-300 comes to play with the future increase of the MTOW to 154,000lb (69853kg). The higher MTOW will only be useful for high-density variants where the payload increase can use the 2.3t extra margin, or when an airline wants to configure the aircraft with a more elaborate and heavy cabin. It would also contribute to a higher payload for the flown sectors if freight business can be found for the belly. Maximum fuel stays at 17.5t from a TOW of 66t and up as the tanks are full from this TOW when flying with a full cabin.

An additional 3,000l of tankage should be found for the A220 to let the A220-300 use its increased MTOW efficiently.

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