The power of a bailout: Airbus commits to A320 replacement by 2030

You may not have seen the detail, because it was few and far between, but the French Government has struck again, this time with the support of Germany and the EU.

Having bailed out Air France and told it to stop all domestic flights as a method of reducing Co2 as a condition of that bailout, it’s struck again. Hopefully this will be more impactful, because already, other airlines, including ASL are getting ready to launch domestic services in France to replace the ones Air France will have to cut. Did nobody think that might happen?

This time the bailout conditions are vastly more strategic and globally important. Airbus has been ‘persuaded’ to agree to replace the A320 by 2030.

It was already moving towards doing so, but that is now a commitment. And it’s a commitment Boeing will have to stare at and wonder what happens next. It hasn’t developed a ground-up 737/A320 size aircraft since the 1960’s, and what it did to the MAX was a catastrophe, still far from resolved.

The question of course will be what does the A320 replacement look like? Will it be another 100% jet fuel burner, or are we heading towards the age of partial electric passenger aircraft, built on a scale that will make it fully viable? It seems that all-electric is just too much for a viable jetliner in this half of the century.

The plan is to move from aviation jet fuel to hydrogen by 2035-40, that when burned tuns to water vapour, there’s no Co2 when its consumed. Hydrogen is also limitless in availability, as it can be made from water. It is however highly dependent on the source of energy for extracting it – it needs to be just as clean and from a renewable source, and employed in a process known as electrolysis, which splits hydrogen gas from oxygen in water, the H in H2O.

The new aircraft will be revealed by 2026-28 and in production by 2030 as an efficient jet fuel burner, with hydrogen powered aircraft coming later.

Jet fuel is highly flammable and dangerous, and there’s as much and more danger in hydrogen, which will be in pressurised liquid form, so distribution and containment will be an issue. Airbus and the European Union have agreed on and will fund millions in R&D costs for fuel technology.

The aim is to pull the greening of aviation ten years sooner than might otherwise be the case. Nobody can complain about that as a goal.

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