Next to the Boeing 737, the Airbus A320-family aircraft are the most widely flown in the commercial industry, and the A320 itself is the oldest and most-popular Airbus-group member. The new-generation A320neo will burn 20% less fuel per seat-mile and is expected to enter service in October 2015, leading to an acceleration in the retirement of some older A320s. But large numbers of A320s will be flying, and requiring maintenance, for quite a while. There are more than 3,400 A320s in operation, with another 2,600 on order. About two-thirds of these aircraft are or will be leased.
Second only to the 737, the A320 also is a very-frequent visitor to maintenance hangars. Aviation Week’s MRO Prospector estimates that A320s will need about 350 heavy checks in 2015. This pace climbs over the next year, with 418 heavy checks predicted for 2016.
For lighter C checks, the A320 will be in shops much more frequently. MRO Prospector predicts about 1,480 C checks for the A320 in 2015, followed by more than 1,540 in 2016.
Hangars and shops may also find modification opportunities in the A320. For example, the A320 was the first to be equipped with Sharklet-wingtip extensions to save fuel. In October 2013, Airbus announced a Sharklet-retrofit program for in-service A319s and A320s. The retrofits will be available in 2015, and will reduce fuel consumption by up to 4% while increasing mission range by up to 100 nm.
Installation of lighter, new-generation seats also will save fuel. New-generation seats weigh four kilograms each, or one-half to one-third the weight of traditional seats, and could save up to 1,200 kg per aircraft. The continuing revolution in consumer electronics has made upgrading inflight entertainment (IFE) and communications very popular, and in some cases, a competitive necessity.
In addition to program maintenance and modifications, airlines and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) providers must accommodate airworthiness directives (ADs). These ADs are mandatory in originating jurisdictions and may be advisable elsewhere, either as extra safety precautions or because leased aircraft are most valuable when they comply with regulations anywhere in the world. Recent U.S. and EU ADs do not appear onerous, but require a number of small adjustments or inspections.
Effective Nov. 7, FAA AD 2014‑20-04 now requires repetitive inspections for cracking in the four titanium angles between the belly fairing and the keel beam side panel of fuselages on A320s. If cracking is found, holes must be inspected and necessary repairs or replacements made.
For certain A320-111, -211 and -231 series aircraft, FAA AD 2014-19-04 adds to an earlier AD requiring repetitive inspections for cracking in the transition and pick-up angles in the lower center fuselage. Effective Oct. 31, the new AD mandates installation of washers between transition pickup angles and pin nuts.
FAA AD 2014-17-10 applies to all A320s. Effective Sept. 12, airlines must perform repetitive on-ground power cycles, or resets, of the transponder, terrain and traffic collision avoidance system (T3CAS). FAA AD 2014-13-12 also applies to all A320s. Starting Sept. 9 of this year, carriers must identify the part and serial number of each passenger-oxygen container, replace any oxygen-generator manifold that contains silicon and check the manual mask release.
FAA AD 2014-14-05 applies only to certain A320-111s, -211s, -212s and -231s. Starting Aug. 27, carriers had to inspect center wing boxes for cracking and repair if necessary.
EASA’s AD 2014-15-16 applies to certain A320s. It requires detailed airframe inspection for missing fasteners between certain stringers and a roto-test inspection of the fastener holes for cracking, with corrective actions if necessary. This AD became effective mid-August 2014.
Another EASA AD, 2014-0237, applies to A320s and as of Nov. 12, requires replacement of Thales Avionics pilot probes P/N C16195AA and P/N C16195BA.
EASA AD 2014-0234 applies to A320s, requiring test and removal from service of any defective Fuel Vent Protectors as of Nov. 7, 2014.
A version of this article appears in the December 1/8 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology.