The Anonymous Widower

Could An A320 neo Be Rebuilt As A ZEROe Turbofan?

This post is a follow-up to ZEROe – Towards The World’s First Zero-Emission Commercial Aircraft.

I spent a lot of time yesterday, looking at YouTube videos of the following.

  • Airbus A320 aircraft
  • Airbus A 320 neo aircraft
  • Airbus’s proposed ZEROe Turbofan aircraft

I also captured these profiles from the Airbus web site, of three members of the new Airbus A 320 neo family and the current Airbus A 320 ceo.

A 319 neo – Length – 33.84 metres – Max Passengers – 160

A 320 neo – Length 37.57 metres – Max Passengers – 194

A 321 neo – Length 44.51 metres – Max Passengers – 244

A 320 ceo – Length 37.57 – Max Passengers – 180

Note.

  1. The links on each variant lead to Airbus’s on-line specification.
  2. All three variants have a wing-span of 35.8 metres and a height of 11.76 metres.
  3. All variants have sharklets or blended winglets to improve awrodynamic efficiency.
  4. There are different door, cargo door and window layouts on all three variants.
  5. The cockpits, tail and wings look similar.

This capture from an Airbus video, shows the profile of the proposed ZEROe Turbofan.

Note, that the ZEROe Turbofan looks more streamlined than the A 320 neo family, with a redesigned nose and more swept-back tailfin and sharklets.

These are my thoughts on the current A 320 neo family and their relationship with the ZEROe Turbofan.

Focus On Commonality

For each variant on the Airbus web site, there is a section with this title. This is the first sentence for the A 320 neo.

Due to its 95 per cent airframe commonality with the A320ceo (current engine option) version, Airbus’ A320neo jetliner fits seamlessly into existing A320 Family fleets worldwide – which is a key factor for the company’s customers and operators.

Will Airbus follow this philosophy with the ZEROe Turbofan?

If it worked between the changeover between the existing A 320 fleets and the A 320 neo fleets, why change the policy?

The Cockpits

The cockpits of the A 320 neo and the A 320 ceo seem to have a similar profile, but the cockpit of the ZEROe Turbofan seems to have been reprofiled.

In ZEROe – Towards The World’s First Zero-Emission Commercial Aircraft, I showed these front on views of the cockpits of the ZEROe Turboprop and ZEROe Turbofan.

I questioned if the two cockpits were related.

  • A single cockpit for both aircraft would surely ease manufacture, maintenance and pilot training.
  • I’m no aerodynamicist, but it certainly looks that the new cockpit will reduce drag and fuel consumption.

Although the cockpit, appears to be being used in the ZEROe for the first time, I would expect it is already under development and might feature in any later version of the A 320 neo.

The Fuselages

The fuselage width for both the A 320 neo family and the A 320 ceo are all 3.95 metres, with a maximum cabin width of 3.70 metres.

I would expect that the ZEROe Turboprop and the ZEROe Turbofan will also use this width.

Airbus use a design called Cabin-Flex to get the most out of the interior space in the A 320 neo. This paragraph is from the Wikipedia section, that is entitled Cabin-Flex.

By permanently replacing the second door pair in front of the wing (R2/L2) with a new second pair of overwing exits, the capacity of the A321neo is increased from 220 seats to 240 seats and fuel efficiency per seat is increased by 6%, exceeding 20% together with the new engines and the sharklets. The modifications should weigh 100 kg more.[82] Initial A321neos have the A321ceo exit door configuration with four exit door pairs until the Airbus Cabin-Flex (ACF) layout can be selected.

After reading the whole section, it looks to me, that the A 320 neo fuselage is designed, to be all things to all airlines and doors and seats can be arranged to fit any requirements.

In the ZEROe Turbofan, there is a large liquid hydrogen tank behind the rear pressure bulkhead, which could be brought forward a bit to give more space and hydrogen capacity.

I suspect there will be a lot of commonality between the fuselage of the A 320 neo family and that of a ZEROe Turbofan.

I spent a lot of time, as a child building Airfix models of aircraft and it may be too much of a simplification to think of these carbon-composite airliners, as giant Airfix models.

But I wouldn’t be surprised that just like the previous generation of aluminium airliners, they can be remanufactured into something different, just like British Airways Tristars, ended up as tanker-aircraft for the RAF.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find, that later A 320 neo fuselages will be able to be remanufactured into fuselages for ZEROe Turbofans.

Comparing The Fuselages Of The A 320 ceo, A 320 neo And ZEROe Turbofan

These are the three fuselage profiles.

A 320 ceo

A 320 neo

ZEROe Turbofan

Aircraft balance on the wings, which if I remember what little I know about aircraft aerodynamics and design, apply their lift forces to the centre of gravity of the aircraft.

I know that the profile of the ZEROe is to a different scale, but three things are apparent.

  • The windows at the rear don’t go as far back, as they do in the two existing designs. But then there is no need for windows around the hydrogen tank.
  • The hydrogen tank could be as long as a quarter of the length of the fuselage.
  • The front section of the aircraft appears longer.

The longer front section would balance the weight of the hydrogen tank.

The passengers would also help to balance the weight of the tank, by being placed further forward.

There must be the possibility of creating a larger capacity and longer range variant of the ZEROe design, by adding a larger hydrogen tank and further stretching the nose.

Airbus have been stretching these designs for years, so I suspect that they have plans for a large number of possible variants of the ZEROe Turbofan.

According to the Wikipedia entry for the A 320 neo family, there are already five civil versions of the A 320 neo; A 319 neo, A 320 neo, A 321 neo, A 321LR and A 321XLR, plus corporate and military versions.

Add in the Cabin-Flex interior and the various A320s and the ZEROe to come, must be one of the most flexible transport systems in history.

The Tailplanes

As they are of the same height and look similar, the tail sections of the A 320 neo and A 320 ceo families could be almost identical, but the tail section of the ZEROe Turbofan appears to be slightly more swept-back and perhaps more aerodynamic.

As the ZEROe Turbofan, also appears to have had a nose-job, I would suspect that Airbus have a redesigned fuselage in the works to squeeze more fuel-efficiency out of this family of already very frugal aircraft. Could this feature the more aerodynamic tailplane?

Could this advanced fuselage feature in a later version of the A 320 neo?

I also feel, that the functionality of the tailplane on the ZEROe Turbofan will need to be little different to that on the earlier planes.

  • The plane is still powered by two turbofan engines on the wings.
  • Rudder forces, with an engine failure on one side, will still be the same.

The big difference will be that the fuel is at the back of the fuselage rather than in the wings, which will affect the balance.

Will this effect the design of the tailplane? I don’t think it will in a large way, as Airbus seem to have lengthened the nose to compensate.

The Wings

All the wings with sharklets for the A 320 neo family and the A 320 ceo have the same wingspan of 35.8 metres, so I would expect they are all substantially similar.

But there is one big difference in that the wings of the conventionally-powered aircraft are full of fuel.

This would probably mean that much of the wing stresses in the ZEROe Turbofan would be like an A 320 neo flying with little fuel in the wing tanks. As some aircraft in the A320 neo family have fuselage tanks, Airbus can even test the wing forces and handling in a real aircraft.

But it does look that Airbus will have little trouble designing, building and certifying the wing of a ZEROe Turbofan.

There is a minor difference in that the sharklets for the ZEROe Turbofan are more extreme.

But then as I said earlier, is there a new more aerodynamic airframe for the A 320 neo in the works?

Conclusion

I very much feel that there will be a route to convert some or all of the A 320 neo aircraft to hydrogen power.

 

 

September 25, 2020 - Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , ,

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