Airbus’s A220 program continues to evolve into a major market force as improvements such as a 5,000-pound increase in maximum takeoff weight (mtow) and 180-minute Etops approval further express the company’s commitment to reinforcing the former Bombardier C Series’ commercial appeal.
Speaking with AIN in early June, Airbus A220 head of engineering and customer support Rob Dewar explained that customer demand—not any particular internal objective—prompted the improvements that resulted in a range increase of some 450 nm and ETOPS diversion allowance from 120 to 180 minutes. Calling the mtow a “paperwork exercise,” he said it nevertheless required not insignificant investment, even though the airplane’s developers recognized the capability from early in the test program.
“It’s interesting because we do have an exceptional cabin that really is very comfortable to fly even very long-range flights,” said Dewar. “And we saw that starting originally with Air Baltic. “They started with [generally] one- to two-and-a-half-hour flights. And, of course, they started the longer-range flights to Abu Dhabi from Riga, [which lasts about] six-and-a-half hours. They had still quite a bit of fuel left, so we had requests from a number of other customers. So it’s kind of something that was a quick win for us.”
Scheduled for approval in the A220-300 in mid-2020 and in the A220-100 about a year later, the mtow and resulting range increase will certainly open more transatlantic routes, added Dewar, while the 180-minute ETOPS capability will allow the likes of Asian launch customer Korean Air to fly more direct routes over the Pacific. Although Transport Canada granted 180-minute ETOPS approval in January, Korean authorities need to follow suit to allow Korean Air to take advantage of the capability. The airline has yet to indicate when it will need the approval, however.