“We have every justification for taking an optimistic view on the mid- and long-term prospects for this program,” Franz-Josef Strauss, the chairman of Airbus Industrie on the A320 programme in 1987.

It was a grand declaration. Just over 27 years and 7 months after Airbus’ first A320-100 MSN001 took to the sky Airbus’ A320neo flew for the first time yesterday commencing the type’s certification campaign.

The original A320-100 was the first fully fly-by-wire aircraft, and the beginning of Airbus’ now conventional side stick in replacement of the traditional yoke. At the time of the first flight there was significant psychological aversion of pilots and certifiers to full electronic control with the belief that hardware was still more reliable that electronics. On this note, it’s worth reading a flight test report written during the original A320 test campaign.

Innovation and willingness to take industry leading chances made and broke both Airbus and Boeing. It was this mentality also drove both to greatness. But the wounds of the last few years still raw, appetite for risk is minimal. The neo’s first flight is significant in this respect because it marks the embodiment of the derivative era. Re-engined efficiency has begun.


Featured images via Airbus SAS.