When the first-ever Airbus A320 performed its maiden flight 36 years ago today, on February 22nd, 1987, very few could have predicted how this single-aisle aircraft would transform the aviation industry – becoming the world’s best-selling narrowbody aircraft family and transforming Airbus as an aircraft manufacturing company itself.
Revealing the Airbus A320 to the world
The first Airbus A320-100 rolled off the production line on February 22nd, carrying registration F-WWAI. With the Manufacturer Serial Number 001, it was designated as one of the primary testbeds for the Airbus A320 program.
Fitted with CFM56-5 series engines and painted in an Airbus livery that highlights the aircraft type, F-WWAI also sported a straight line of airline customer logos, including Lufthansa, Qantas, Scandinavian Airlines, and many more. During its grand reveal to the public, F-WWAI was greeted by several VIP, including the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Taking off for the first time from Toulouse
Eight days after its grand reveal from the production line, F-WWAI operated its maiden flight, captained by the then-Vice President of the Flight Division and Chief Test Pilot Pierre Baud. He was accompanied by the Senior Vice President of Engineering, Bernard Ziegler, and the Director of Test and Development, Gerard Guyot.
These three men were also accompanied by Engineering Test Pilot Gordon Corps as a pilot observer, System Flight Test Engineer Jean-Marie Mathios, and Flight Test Engineer Juergen Hammer. Upon take-off from Toulouse-Blagnac Airport, F-WWAI became the first aircraft to fly with fully digital, computerized fly-by-wire controls and sidestick controllers.
The maiden test flight lasted seven minutes short of three and a half hours and was deemed successful as Baud applauded the aircraft, saying:
“Our A320 is delightfully responsive and reassuringly stable to fly, with qualities which fly-by-wire brings together for the first time in an aircraft.”
More test flights in the following years
As F-WWAI continued to operate more test flights for systems efficiency and upgrades, Airbus opted for a registration change in May 1991, and the revolutionary narrowbody was re-registered F-WWFT. Under its new registration, the aircraft manufacturer sought to use its testbed to conduct flight testing for paint riblets and winglets.
Once these tests were completed, Airbus wanted to give the testbed back its initial registration F-WWAI. However, the arrival of the first-ever Airbus A340-300 in October 1991 meant that the narrowbody testbed was getting yet another new registration to make way for the newer quadjet. And as such, F-WWBA was the narrowbody’s new registration, which lasted all the way till its retirement in 2016.
Regardless of registration, the different letters could never take away how significant the numbers logged by the first-ever Airbus A320 in its lifetime ever were. Flown by at least 110 different Airbus test pilots, F-WWBA was also accompanied by 20 systems test flight engineers and 70 flight test engineers, all while completing numerous tasks – including the in-flight evaluations of 29 various engines.
An unforgettable milestone for Airbus
Since its retirement, the testbed was reapplied with its original test registration. F-WWAI also had its test winglets removed and was repainted into the original Airbus livery with which it rolled off the production line. The aircraft manufacturer then transferred the narrowbody to the Aeroscopia Museum in Toulouse for preservation.
F-WWAI paved the way for a game changing family of aircraft, allowing Airbus to compete in the single-aisle market worldwide for decades. With more than 7,500 aircraft delivered by the aircraft manufacturer, the Airbus A320 family has today carried more than 11.5 billion passengers.
- Stock Code:
- Business Type:
- Date Founded:
- Guillaume Faury
- Headquarters Location:
- Toulouse, France
- Key Product Lines:
- Airbus A220, Airbus A320, Airbus A330, Airbus A340, Airbus A350, Airbus A380