Introduction of Airbus A318

Airbus A318 is the least produced variant of the A320 Family. One of the interesting facts about this variant is the size. It is the smallest of all the Airbus commercial aircraft productions. The aircraft made its formal entry into service in July 2003. The US-based ultra-low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines was the first operator of the Airbus A318. Air France was the largest operator of the Airbus A318 as of January 2019. The A318 is also sometimes referred to as the Baby bus.

Airbus A318 - 'Baby Bus' of A320 family
Airbus A318 – the ‘Baby Bus’
Read more: Airbus – A Name to Reckon with

Portfolio

The Airbus A318 is a single-aisle 2 x 2 seat configuration commercial airliner. It can accommodate 107 to 132 passengers and has a maximum range of 5,700 km. The aircraft was brought in the market for short-range flights. The A318s are operating in two types of variants: the A318-100 and the A318 Elite.

The Airbus A318 is a single-aisle 2 x 2 seat configuration commercial airliner. It can accommodate 107 to 132 passengers and has a maximum range of 5,700 km. The aircraft was brought in the market for short-range flights. The A318s are operating in two types of variants: the A318-100 and the A318 Elite.

Reduction in frames of aft and fore of the wings of the Airbus A318

Power Plant and Flight Control System

The A318 is powered by CFM International or Pratt and Whitney turbofan engines. The aircraft shares a similar flight control system as its predecessors have been using onboard. This feature yet again resolves the aircrew training currencies while shifting from one variant to another. It also helps in saving maintenance costs due to similarities in components.

Was Airbus A318 ever needed?

The initial idea of bringing this smaller version of a commercial aircraft was coined in the late 90s to respond to the increased market demands of short hauls travel. The aim was to bring a smaller jetliner for 100 plus a few, seating capacity.

What Happened then?

A consortium of Aviation Industries of China (AVIC), Singapore Technologies Aerospace (asta), Airbus, and Alenia was initially planned to launch this aircraft. Two versions AE316 and AE317 were part of this project. Interestingly, Airbus also had the A31X project running in parallel, independently on the same lines.

The joint project faced many impediments due to disagreement between the Chinese and Airbus sides about the seating capacity. The former wanted to launch a bigger aircraft with more seating capacity whereas, the latter did not want to. Market research at the time showed that airlines needed short-range aircraft with a seating range of 70-80 passengers.

The Final Go!

Amidst disagreement between the two parties, the project got held in between. Nothing moved further in this direction. Ultimately, Airbus took the final initiative and went on with the development of A318; based on the A31X project.

An all Premium Class of Airbus A318

Variants

The Airbus A318 has been in use in two different variants. The A318-100 and the A318 Elite.

Airbus A318-100

An Airbus A318-100 has a typical seating capacity of between 90 and 110 passengers. The variant has four models. So with an aircraft available in four sizes, the A318 offers unbeatable fuel efficiency, exceptional operational reliability, and complete passenger satisfaction and comfort. Although the aircraft has the smallest fuselage, the level of comfort is phenomenal. With the widest single-aisle cabin available, passengers can enjoy more personal space and relax in comfortable 18-inch-wide seats. The A320 also has plenty of overhead locker space.

Airbus A318-100

Airbus A318 Elite

The A318 Elite is purely a corporate business jet with all the luxuries and amenities onboard. Unlike an A318-100, the A318 elite accommodates 18 passengers. As a result, the OEM has been able to enhance its range from mid to long-range. With a limited seating configuration, the aircraft can include a separate office, dining room, and bedroom. The A318 offers spacious internal and external luggage storage. Eight people can also have their own sleeping quarters.

Cabin of an A318 Elite

The Differentiating Capability of Airbus A318

Steep Approach Capability

The A318 has a unique capability that differentiates itself from other members of the A320 family. The aerodynamics of the aircraft has been modified in a manner where it can actually make steeper approaches to runways, unlike any other jet aircraft. For making such approaches, the onboard flight computer system is programmed to synergize the deployment of the aircraft’s moving surfaces including the slats, flaps, speed brakes, and landing gears.

Why there is a need for a Steeper Approach?

Runway lengths are not the same at all locations. Some runways are shorter than the others. To manage flight operations at such airports, an aircraft with turbofan engines is difficult since it causes runway excursions (aircraft overshooting the runway length beyond the standardized stopping distance). For a normal descent, the glide slope is generally standardized at 3 degrees. However, an A318 can make a decent approach at the glide slope of 4.5 – 5.5 degrees which is quite high viz landing speed considerations. Due to the A318s smaller size, it was a manageable affair for the OEM.

A simulated approach of an Airbus A318 for the London City Airport

A test flight was conducted in May 2006 to validate the aircraft’s steep approach and short runway performance by making a landing approach at the London City Airport. The reason being, steep approaches are required at the London City Airport. European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) formally certified a modified control software enhancement, specifically for the Airbus A318 design to allow the aircraft to perform steep approaches. For the record, A318 is the largest commercial aircraft certified by EASA for steep approach operations.

Read more: Airbus Commercial Aircraft Division

Last Word

Although the A318 is a smaller version of the A320, it also has some unique characteristics. Unfortunately, the aircraft could not continue in production due to the factors not in control of the OEM as it was launched just after the 9/11 attack. Due to air travel restrictions and limited flight operations after the September 11 incident, it could not be utilized in the desired manner. Similarly, there were cost issues related to fuel due to high fuel consumption engines and additional landing charges that the airlines had to bear compared to the size of the A318 with aircraft of similar configurations.

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