DALLAS – Today in Aviation, The A318 took to the skies for the first time in 2002. The A318, powered by two CFM56-5 or Pratt & Whitney PW6000 engines, is the smallest member of the popular Airbus A320 family.
Following the launch of the A319 in 1996, Airbus teamed up with China and Singapore to look at shrinking the airframe again to fill the 100-seat market. Due to differences in the requirements, Airbus subsequently was left to push on with the project, dubbed the AE31X, alone.
Sadly the ‘Baby-Bus’ was besieged with issues from the outset. Firstly, just at the A318 was in the final design stages, the 9/11 terrorist attacks caused a significant downturn in demand. This led to several airlines such as Air China (CA), America West (HP) and Trans World Airlines (TW) cancelling their orders.
When the aircraft was certified by EASA and the FAA, it would not come under the regional jet umbrella as Airbus had initially hoped. This meant that the A318 would need to pay higher landing fees, impacting its economic performance.
The A318 entered service with launch customer Frontier Airlines (F9) in July 2003. The airline would fly 11 airframes before retiring the type in August 2013. The biggest operator would be Air France (AF) who would operate 18. The Airbus A220 is now replacing these. In total, just 80 A318 airframes were constructed.
Finding its Niche
In 2007 the A318 was approved for steep approach landing capabilities by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). This allowed the aircraft to operate from London City Airport (LCY), and in 2009 British Airways (BA) launched transatlantic flights to New York (JFK).
Reusing the iconic Concorde flight number of BA001, the dedicated A318 was configured with 32 business class seats. Sadly the route was canceled when demand dropped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The aircraft was subsequently retired on July 31, 2020.
Featured Image: Roberto Leiro/Airways