The Airbus A318 is the smallest member of the A320 airliner family and also the smallest jet airliner produced by the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus. It seats 107-132 passengers depending on interior layout. The A318 is actually a shortened version of the A319, which itself is a shortened version of the A320.
During the mid-1990s, Airbus studied on a project for a 95-125 seat regional airliner together with AVIC (Aviation Industries of China), Singapore Technologies Aerospace and Alenia of Italy. The project was named 'AE31X', and included the AE316 with 95 seats and the longer AE317 with up to 125 seats in a cabin with five-abreast economy class seating (compared with six-abreast in the A320 family). The project was cancelled, however, and in 1999 Airbus launched a shortened version of the A319 for the 100-seat market, which was initially named 'A319M5' (A319 minus five frames) and later became the A318.
Apart from the shorter fuselage, the A318 is almost completely identical to the A319 and A320. The A318 has the same fuselage width as the earlier A320 family members and the same two-crew digital glass cockpit as the A319, A320, A321, A330 and A340, including sidestick controllers, which were first introduced in the A320. A difference is the larger tail, necessary to compensate for the shorter moment arm because of the reduced length of the aircraft.
The A318 made its first flight on 15 January 2002 from Hamburg Finkenwerder in Germany. This aircraft was powered by the new Pratt & Whitney PW6000 engine, which P&W specially developed for the A318. This engine didn't meet the intended fuel consumption specifications, however, and a redesign was necessary, taking several years.
Airbus offered the A318 also with CFM International CFM56 turbofans. This variant first flew on 29 August 2002 and in July 2003 US airline Frontier Airlines became the first user. The first A318 with redesigned PW6000 engines was delivered to LAN Chile in June 2007, four years later.
The problems with the PW6000 didn't help to make the A319 a sales success. Airbus has had orders for more than one hundred aircraft in its books, but because of the engine trouble several airlines changed their A318 orders and bought A319s and/or A320s instead. In the end Airbus sold only 79 A318s which have all been delivered to customers. The main attraction of shrink versions of airliners is commonality of parts and pilot ratings, but a disadvantage is their rather high weight which they inherit from their bigger forebears, resulting in higher fuel consumption. Competing aircraft like the Embraer E-190 and E-195 and the Bombardier CRJ900 are much lighter. The A318 is comparable in size with the Boeing 737-600 and 717, also slow sellers.
Among the airlines putting the A318 into service were Air France, Frontier, Tarom, Mexicana, LAN Chile and US Airways. Several A318s were sold as corporate jets. The bizjet-version of the A318 is named "Elite".
In service the A318 wasn't a success either. Several aircraft went to the scrapheap for parts cannibalisation after only a few years of airline service. Because of the lack of sales, Airbus doesn't develop a re-engined A318neo version, like it does for the larger members of the A320 family. Early in 2015 around 50 A318s were still in airline service.
In June 2007 the Airbus A318 was cleared to operate from London City Airport. Until then the biggest aircraft type allowed there was the British Aerospace BAe-146. Thanks to its rather large range, British Airways flies a couple of A318s on scheduled transatlantic flights between London City Airport and New York. These aircraft have only 32 seats in an all-business class configuration. To save weight for takeoff from the short runway at London City and the high obstacles around this airport, the aircraft tanks only a small amount of fuel there and makes a tankstop at Shannon in Ireland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean. On the return flight from New York, the BA A318s can depart with full tanks and fly nonstop to London. (Photo: British Airways)
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