After a few minor delays and a change in delivery order, Lufthansa was finally able to announce that it took delivery of their first A320neo aircraft. The ‘NEO’ or new engine option is an a320 model that promises better efficiencies thanks to new engines that have been developed for the bird.
Originally, Qatar was to be the first to take delivery of the NEO but they deferred when Airbus could not resolve a few minor engine issues to the satisfaction of Qatar. LUFTHANSA stepped in to the launch customer position after Technik engineers felt that the engine issues were easy to resolve within a short time frame. LH was to have taken delivery of the NEO late in December 2015 but Airbus delayed the delivery by another 3 weeks.
So what led to the delay?
The biggest obstacle that led to the minor delivery delay had to do with the Pratt and Whitney PW1100G engines that are powering some of these new NEOs. Due to the original design, the engine requires a several minute warm up at idle before thrust could be applied. Though this is not a safety issue for the engine when it is operated properly, it did cause a delay with regulators that were certifying the aircraft. Due to the engine needing the warm up period, the steps and processes to properly bring an engine to operating temperature had to be documented in the engine’s manuals as well as the checklist used by the cockpit crew when preparing the aircraft for departure.
As with any government agency, there is bureaucracy, and with bureaucracy comes delays. It was these ‘paper delays’ by Pratt and Whitney and the regulators that led to the bulk of the delivery delay of the aircraft. With all that behind Airbus and Lufthansa, we can look forward to the new birds showing up over the next several months.
This first NEO, D-AINA, is now in Hamburg at LH Technik facilities where it is being prepared to enter service. If all goes to plan, D-AINA will be transferred to Frankfurt on January 24 and will enter service at that point. She will initially fly between Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Munich.
The NEO promises to increase fuel efficiencies by approximately 15 percent while reducing external noise levels by 50% compare to the current A320 model. The new aircraft also comes with Sharklets installed on the wing tips which further enhance the aircraft’s performance and handling. Unfortunately with the cratering of oil and fuel costs, the cost/benefit ratio of the airplane is not as good as it once was, but nevertheless we’ll have new airplanes to enjoy for a long time to come. At least the fleet will be more efficient by the next time fuel prices skyrocket.
LH has 116 A32x NEOs coming to the fleet. 45 of of them will be A321s while the rest of them will be A320s. Five A320s will delivered to LH in 2016 and will all be based in Frankfurt. These airplanes are destined to replace the current and less efficient A320 and A321s in the fleet.