DALLAS – The Airbus A320 family is one of the most popular aircraft models built. The Airbus A320 series itself is almost on the verge of overtaking the record held by the 737 for the most sold type.
In the A320 family – A318, A319, A320, and A321, all the class members look identical besides their length and of course performance but that’s an internal aspect.
In general, commercial airliners usually tend to have a specific design for a particular model and that doesn’t seem to change, unlike cars, let’s say, with modifications here and there. Even if these jets did require a slight modification, it would take a while for approval and actually get it in the plane, or it would just be integrated into the next model of the type.
Ever since 1987, there have been some rare modified versions. Here are three such rare birds. While some still fly, some are no more.
The No-winglet/wingtip A320
The original A320-100 series was the first of what was eventually to come. Although it’s believed that just around 20 of these aircraft were built, none of them came with any sort of wingtip or winglet – just a bland wing. The very first A320 that was delivered to Air France (AF) also came completely without tips.
Besides AF, British Airways (BA) and Air Inter (IT) operated this peculiar model. Soon, the A320-200 series came with the signature Airbus wingtip fence, which is also the one used on the A380. During the 2000s, Airbus tested and tried various wingtip modifications and eventually ended up designing the “sharklet.”
The first Sharklet-equipped A320 was delivered to AirAsia (AK) on 21 December 2012, offering a 450 kg (990 lb) payload increase or 100 nautical miles (190 km) longer range than the original payload.
Neither of them remains in service as of today. Also, two of these classic A320s met with early accidents. F-GFKC (MSN009) was lost at Habsheim in 1988 with only 22 hrs and F-GGED (MSN015) was lost at Strasbourg in Jan 1992.
The Four-door Exit A319
The A319 series, the shorter member of the family comes with just two emergency overwing doors one on either side when compared to the A320 which has four.
However, there’s an exception. European budget carrier Easyjet (U2) group equipped its A319s with four doors rather than just two. U2 got its A319s configured with 156 seats, a rather high density, thus requiring the extra window exit to comply with evacuation rules.
Emergency exit doors are installed based on the number of seats the aircraft has. The A319 usually seats around 140 seats, depending on the airline and the class of cabins.
Easyjet, a low-cost carrier wanted to put in as many passengers as possible into its A319s and hence added an extra row, this further meant that they could no longer operate with two doors and had to add two more to the total up to four. Unless an AVgeek with a sharp eye, many might spot these birds as an A320.
Easyjet isn’t the only one with this modification. Defunct Air Berlin and Allegiant Air (G4) also use it, the latter with ex-U2 aircraft.
The Double Bogey Landing Gear, A320
Perhaps this is the most fascinating model. The standard A320 comes with a single-axle main landing gear that has four wheels in total. However, Indian airlines made a special request to Airbus back in the day to add more wheels to its main gears. Airbus came back with the so-called “Double Bogey” with twice as many wheels, so instead of four, there were eight now.
In total, 31 such aircraft were delivered to Indian airlines, and it was also the only airliner to use this configured set of gears. You might have seen Air India (AI) use them too, as it merged with IC. The request for more landing gears was made due to the fact that many airports served by IC at the time did not have suitable runways and taxiways of optimal quality.
As such, to better distribute loading and reduce the strain on the aircraft’s landing gear, extra gears were ordered. In 2018, these classic double bogeys were retired for good and scrapped.