Many things have been said about Airbus A320 aircraft family, especially in regard to the Neo variants since they represent a solution for higher efficiency on route to lower emissions.
However, the possibility of a new addition to the family, the A322, is gaining relevance in the media. While Airbus makes swift progress to get their A321 XLR (extra long range) certified, many are expecting the European planemaker to present a new aircraft concept that would require to stretch the A321 to get extra seating. At least that is what people are expecting the A322 to look like.
Of course, with the A322 becoming a longer version of the A321, designers need to work on certain features to solve new challenges that may arise from that stretch.
If you want to discover what it would take for Airbus to actually launch the A322, keep reading as we go through the most essential details.
New composite wing
Airbus is already working on a new composite wing project that promises to be much lighter and stronger than the current wing design. The new wing will be made of carbon fiber and other composite materials, and it is being designed with input from both engineers and pilots.
Airbus’ new composite wing project is an ambitious undertaking that aims to create a new type of wing for commercial airplanes, and this could be a significant breakthrough to developing new lighter and more fuel-efficient aircraft, and this may include the A322.
The fact that the A322 would be a longer narrow-body aircraft means that it will require a bigger and stronger wing. The wing is still in the early stages of development, but it has already been tested in a wind tunnel and is expected to undergo further testing in the coming months.
If the new wing meets all of its performance goals, it could be a major breakthrough for Airbus and the aviation industry as a whole. The new wing will also be easier to manufacture, as it will not require the high temperatures needed to shape metal wings.
Access existing airport gates
While the composite wing has the potential to allow Airbus to make the A322 a reality, it also comes with another challenge. A longer narrow-body aircraft with bigger wings, like the A322 is expected to be, may have difficulties to access existing airport gates.
This means that the A322 could reach anywhere around 50 meters, thus making it the alternative to replace old 757-300s that are about 54 meters long.
Since Airbus has been gauging interest from airlines to get a stretched narrow-body which could potentially seat about 262 passengers in all-economy configuration, we could expect the manufacturer to be considering solutions along the composite wing project.
Perhaps the composite wing may require folding tips. If folding wingtips are added, the Airbus A322 would be able to reduce the space needed when taxiing towards the corresponding gate, thus making it possible to access those that already exist.
While there may be other solutions, this seems the most promising one, especially if we consider the fact that Airbus is currently working on the development of a special kind of wing.
Other future needs
Apart from the requirement of a different kind of wing, the Airbus A322 may be required to cover other needs.
In addition to the need for a stronger wing structure, the development of a stretched narrowbody aircraft would also require considerations for increased fuel capacity, upgraded engines, and a redesigned landing gear system to support the added weight and length of the aircraft.
Additionally, changes would need to be made to the interior cabin layout in order to accommodate more passengers and provide them with adequate levels of comfort during flight.
The integration of new technologies and systems would also be necessary in order to maintain safety standards and optimize the performance of the extended aircraft.
The overall development process may involve extensive research and testing before being able to successfully bring the stretched narrow-body model to market.
As mentioned above, Airbus is striving towards new types of engine options, so the aircraft may see its landing gear repositioned if the next generation engines are to be used. And we should expect next generation engines to be used to cope with the emissions reduction that is required.
Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said “we think the next new platform will be significantly better than what we do today. We’re really focused on accelerating the path to de-carbonisation and to the propulsion system of the future.” This is a clear statement of intentions.
In this race for making the industry more environmentally friendly, many other challenges may arise for Airbus and its counterpart, Boeing. Therefore, it is difficult to ensure that we will see any new Airbus or Boeing stretch the number of seats for airlines to get more passengers in their short or mid-haul flights any time soon.
Some final thoughts
The A322 might be a popular aircraft model if it gets launched by Airbus, especially among airlines looking to increase the number of passengers they can sit in their short-haul flights.
Also, the wings’ new design and composite material may improve fuel efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint, something the entire aviation industry is trying to achieve. Airbus is also investigating the use of novel manufacturing techniques to produce the wing, which could lead to even further weight savings.
However, Airbus has not shared much information about it. When checking their website, it is clear that their current promotional focus is the nearing certification of their new A321XLR.
According to Sue Partridge, leader of the company’s “Wing of Tomorrow” program, Airbus’ wing project should be finished in 2023. Yet, the technology will require refinement as it is integrated into Airbus’ product launch after the project’s completion. Moreover, the timeline of this process depends on the new jet’s complexity; however, an announcement for the A322 might come within a few years.
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Jet pilot @NASA
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