A320neo First Flight

Taking off to the skies above France

The A320neo lifts off from Toulouse for its maiden flight

14 degrees Celsius, five kilometers visibility and practically no wind: Weather conditions at Toulouse Blagnac Airport on September 25 were excellent. At 12 o’clock sharp the new A320neo powered by Pratt & Whitney’s highly advanced PW1100G-JM engines took off for its maiden flight. MTU’s Chief Operating Officer Dr. Rainer Martens commented: “With the first flight of the A320neo we have reached another important milestone. This success is owed in no small measure to the innovative technologies and new materials developed by MTU specialists from various disciplines. There is still a lot of work ahead of us, but I am confident that we will reach the ambitious targets.”

Dr. Jörg-Michael Henne, who is responsible for the development of the geared turbofan programs, said: “This Thursday is indeed a red-letter day for MTU, given that the GTF engine family, which includes the PW1100G-JM now flying for the first time, will play a prominent role in MTU's new engine business in the years and even decades to come.” MTU has an 18-percent share in the engine powering the A320neo and contributes the forward four stages of the high-pressure compressor, plus the low-pressure turbine.

With this first flight years of intensive development work, whose beginnings date back to the 1980s, have finally come to fruition. The breakthrough was achieved in the middle of the last decade when the high-speed low-pressure turbine was developed and the GTF concept further brought to perfection. Major improvements that set the PW1000 apart from today’s conventional turbofans include a 75-percent reduction in noise and a 16-percent cut in fuel burn and emissions.

On MTU’s premises in Munich and at the company’s Polish subsidiary in Rzeszów, which has a major role in the PW1100G-JM program, employees watched the successful maiden flight via livestream TV. And a group of MTU representatives, among them Chief Program Officer Michael Schreyögg, had traveled to Toulouse to witness the event. “The first flight of the A320neo is impressive proof of the successful cooperation of Pratt & Whitney, MTU and our Japanese partners,” Schreyögg said. “And we must not forget the people behind the product who have made this achievement possible. At MTU, everybody is highly motivated for the tasks ahead. Certification, ramp-up of production and delivery of the first engines are the challenges we’ll have to tackle in the next few years.”

The first flight of the A320neo in the skies over southern France lasted around two hours. Then the pilot started the descent and touched down safely on the runway in Toulouse at 2:22 p.m. local time.

Before a new aircraft actually enters into service and takes off with passengers on board for the first time, it has to undergo several thousand hours of rigorous testing both on the ground and in the air. The next major milestone following the flawless maiden flight of the A320neo now is to obtain approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The required tests will run through late 2014. Their successful completion will pave the way for entry into service.

Photos: Airbus S.A.S. 2014 / A. Doumenjou (Homepage), P. Pigeyre (Report)