The Airbus A220-500, a deep-dive analysis: The launch date challenge

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By Bjorn Fehrm and Vincent Valery

Jan. 30, 2023, © Leeham News: In the previous articles, demand in the Airbus A320 family gradually shifted from the smaller A319 and A320 to the larger A321. This shift is laying the groundwork for the arrival of the A220-500.

Airbus can develop the A220-500 with relatively minor technical modifications that are not extremely challenging. In an aircraft performance analysis, we saw that the light aircraft weight gave the A220-500 an advantage against the A320neo and 737-8.

What is then preventing Airbus from launching the A220-500 now? While most of the attention has been on the cannibalization risk with the A320neo and the lack of urgency given Airbus’ market share lead, other and more critical factors, in LNA’s opinion, are at play.

Being an aircraft OEM is not just about designing airplanes that meet payload-range requirements and satisfy stringent safety regulations. It is also about efficiently building aircraft with millions of parts and consistent production rates. The recent challenges OEMs are facing ramping up after the Covid-19 pandemic show that aircraft production is far from a walk in the park that can be taken for granted.

It is common for aircraft OEMs to spend as much cash nursing production through the learning curve until the first profitable delivery as developing the aircraft itself.

The final article on this A220-500 series discusses why Airbus is rightfully cautious about launching the new variant.

Figure 1. A rendering of an A220-500 that takes 157 passengers. Source; Leeham Co.

  • Current planned A220 production rates and variants can satisfy demand;
  • Adding the A220-500 brings the program to a new demand level;
  • Several clients would place large A220-500 orders;

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