Why did Airbus Hike the A220 MTOW?

Hello All,

At last week’s Airbus innovation days the European manufacturer announced a maximum takeoff weight hike of 2.4 metric tons for the A220-100 and A220-300. In this blog post we will analyze why Airbus decided to do so after inferring the updated aircraft payload-range diagram.

The A220-100 and A220-300 currently have nominal ranges of 2,950 and 3,300 nautical miles. The increased MTOW will give an extra 450 and 75 for the -100 and -300 respectively. Why did the range increase so much more for the smaller A220 variant? In order to explain the discrepancy one needs to look at the current payload-range capabilities of the A220.

Below are the current A220 basic specifications:

Variant

A220-100

A220-300

Max Payload

15.1

18.7

Current MTOW

60.7

67.6

Fuel Capacity

17.7

17.7

Current Nominal Range

2950

3300

Current Max Payload Range

1950

2000

Current Max Fuel Range

3850

3375

Payload in metric tons, range in nautical miles

The maximum payload range is the range up to which the aircraft can fly with the maximum allowed payload. One should note that in practice the maximum payload varies according to numerous factors, including seating options (lie flat business class seats weigh north of 100kg), whether there are in flight entertainment screens, etc. At the maximum payload range the aircraft reaches its MTOW. To increase range further the airline can trade payload for jetfuel up to the point where tanks are full (maximum fuel range). This represents the effective maximum range of the aircraft: it is uneconomical to take payload off with full tanks to increase range.

The current A220 maximum payload range is around 2,000 nm. As a point of comparison it is around 2,500 nm for both the A321neo and 737MAX 8 (https://epsilonaviation.wordpress.com/2018/09/02/what-are-the-payload-range-capabilities-of-various-narrowbody-aircrafts-and-their-implications-for-airlines/). By increasing the A220 MTOW the maximum payload range increases. How much of an increase will the extra 2.4 metric tons give?

We are going to assume that the MTOW increase will fully translate into more range. We will also assume that the extra range can be inferred by using the cruise fuel burn. In practice this will be less because the extra MTOW would cause the aircraft to burn more fuel during the climb and first part of the flight. The MTOW increase might require strengthening some aircraft components, which translates into more weight. The A220-100 and A220-300 burn around 1.9 and 2.1 metric tons of fuel per 500 nautical miles during cruise. This translates into an extra 600 and 500 nautical miles of range at maximum payload. Below are the updated basic aircraft specifications:

Variant

A220-100

A220-300

New MTOW

63.1

69.9

Fuel burn per 500 nm

1.9

2.1

Extra Range at Max payload

600

500

New Max Payload Range

2550

2500

New Nominal Range

3400

3350

New Payload at Nominal Range

11.9

13.3

Below is a comparison of the A220-100 and A220-300 payload-range diagram before and after the MTOW increase (HGW, or heavy gross weight, indicates the variants with higher MTOW):

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is payloadrange_a220_hgw.jpg

As one can see the A220 matches the 2,500 nm range at maximum payload of the A321neo and 737MAX-8. 2,500 nm happens to be the effective distance of a westbound US transcontinental flight. This means that A220 current and future operators Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways are probably among the airlines that pushed for the A220 MTOW increase.

The payload at nominal range is also increased by the same 2.4 metric tons. It is now 11.9 and 13.3 metrics tons for the -100 and -300 respectively. This effectively translates into around 115 and 133 passengers. The 3,375 nm matches the range of the A320neo and 737MAX in similar passenger configurations. What does that mean in practice for airlines?

Delta Air Lines and Jetblue Airways will be able to fly with full passenger payloads to Northern South America from the US East Coast. Given the A220’s solid field performance a direct flight between New York and Quito might become feasible.

It is no coincidence that Airbus showed an A220 range circle from Boston. Some destinations that might become viable from the New England city are Dublin (2,600 nm), Guayaquil (2,706 nm) and Manchester (2,741 nm).

Air Baltic might be able to fly to more destinations from its Riga base, including Dubai (2,332 nm), Tenerife (2,407 nm) and Ponta Delgada (2,263 nm). New Delhi might be a stretch though at 2,796 nautical miles, especially if there are airspace restrictions.

A large part of Western Europe is reachable from Dubai with the A220, notably Rome (2,348 nm) and Munich (2,467 nm). Geneva (2,660 nm), Barcelona (2,799 nm) and Paris (2,832 nm) might also be within reach.

To summarize the increase in MTOW allows the A220 to match the range capabilities of the A320neo and 737MAX in similar passenger configurations. This means US transcontinental flights with full payloads. It also opens up the possibility of flights to Ireland and Northern South America from Boston. The increase in MTOW was announced a few weeks before the Paris Air Show. The latter might be the occasion to announce an order from a new customer.

Credit: Airbus

A220

12 thoughts on “Why did Airbus Hike the A220 MTOW?

  1. The Payload Range Chart is wrong, the A221 and A223 lines should end in the same spot. The way the chart is drawn may lead people to believe the fuel volume has changed.

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  2. Hi Thomas. If you look carefully the max fuel point is the same before and after MTOW hike. The A221 and A223 share the same fuel volume. Being smaller, the former has more range for the same amount of fuel

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    1. Hi,
      You’re right about the A221 vs A223 payload range, but I think there’s still a small mistake between the A223 and A223-HGW PL-range diagrams(as well as between A221 and A221hgw). increasing the MTOW of the aircraft indeed moves the point where maxfuel first starts up, but not like you depicted on the figure. It moves up ALONG the fuel-limited line, not vertically, therefor, the fuel-limited part of the payload range should remain the same, only a bit longer.
      Check: http://www.aircraftmonitor.com/uploads/1/5/9/9/15993320/aircraft_payload_range_analysis_for_financiers___v2.pdf

      The only possible way to shift the payload-range to the right is by increasing the maximum amount of fuel.

      KR, Mikel

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  3. In a recent article by Leeham https://leehamnews.com/2019/10/10/embraers-e195-e2-or-airbus-a220-300-under-150-seats-part-4/ it is stated that A220-300 could fly the same range as A321LR, namely 4,000NM, introducing a 6,000L ACT, albeit at the obvious cost of restricting the cabin to about 100 pax. However, in your payload/range graph payload is indicated as 5 tons for A223 and 8 tons for A221. Where is the discrepancy or am I misinterpreting something?

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    1. Hi Luis. I believe THe reason for the difference is the fact that, on my diagram, 4000nm is past the maximum fuel point for both aircraft (3450nm for the A223). If you continue the line past that point, you will see that the max payload is higher. 10 tons sounds about right with the weight penalty of an ACT.

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  4. Yes Vincent, that seems to be the correct answer. 6000L is 5 tons, and at a higher consumption rate of 2.3 tons/h it will fly for 2.2 hours or 1,050NM. Extending in your graph the line past 3,450NM we get a 12 tons payload at a 4,000NM distance. However, fuel plus 1 ton for the tank totals 6 tons, but we must remember that per Bjorn Fehrm this aircraft becomes fuel limited by 3 tons below MTOW, so for for 4,000NM we must just deduce 3 tons of payload, or 30 pax, reaching a cabin configuration of 100 pax. This is truly impressive. Even at a higher cost per seat km, more than one imaginative carrier will think of several thinest routes to serve.!

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