American’s new Airbus A321 in flight – Photo: Eric Dunetz
A while back, I viewed a tweet about an Air Traffic Control (ATC) conversation in New York, where JFK ATC got a little bit confused about an aircraft type. Â American Airlines (AA) Flight 32 was incorrectly called a â€œheavyâ€ aircraft, likely because for so long that flight was operated by a Boeing 767-200. Â Ever since AA debuted their new Airbus A321 on the LAX-JFK route, this flight no longer needs to use the “heavy” designation, but that didn’t stop the ATC staff from using old habits. Â It made me question, at what point does an aircraft become â€œheavyâ€?
When aircraft are approaching or departing an airport, they must use special designations to help avoid the wake turbulence from other aircraft. Â Larger aircraft, like a 767 or an A340, need more space behind them to prevent the wake vortices generated by the larger wing span from impacting other aircraft. Â The bigger the aircraft, the longer the distance.
The dangers are real, as all over the world a number of incidents have occurred that can be attributed to a wake vortex. Â From the crash of an XB-70 in the 60’s to some involving more modern aircraft in the last 10 years (including an A380 in Sydney).
HI-RES PIC (click for larger): The 7000th Airbus aircraft, an A321 for US Airways, takes off. Check the German flag on the tail. Photo from Airbus.
Airbus wasÂ originallyÂ founded in 1970 as a consortium of aerospace manufactures to better compete with Boeing, McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed. Their first aircraft was the A300, which first flight on October 28, 1972 and since then, the manufacture has created many successful aircraft that have flown millions of passengers around the world. A big milestone was reached by the company on December 12th; Airbus delivered its 7000th plane. The special aircraft was an A321 that was delivered to US Airways.
â€œItâ€™s particularly fitting that our 7,000th aircraft is an A321 going to US Airways. The airline not only operates the largest fleet of Airbus aircraft in the world; with over 220 A320 Family aircraft flying in US Airways colours today,â€ said Tom Enders, Airbus President and CEO. â€œThis milestone is a tribute to the hard work and commitment of Airbus teams around the world. We have improved efficiencies company-wide and this has enabled us to deliver record numbers of latest generation aircraft at continually increasing rates, with an environmental footprint ever decreasing.â€
It was only two short years ago that Airbus delivered their 6000th aircraft, which was an A380 for Emirates in January 2010.
As of November, 2011, Airbus has received a total of 11,438 orders, with 816 for the A300/A310 family, 8251 for the A320 family, 2128 for the A330/A340/A350 family and 243 for the A380.
A big congrats to Airbus on their 7000th delivery, let’s see how long it takes to make the 8000 mark.