A320 comments

From:         David Lednicer <dave@amiwest.com>
Date:         18 Sep 95 12:06:58 
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	A friend of mine recently converted over to the A320.  At my
request, he has prepared the following comments regarding the aircraft.
These comments are posted with his permission.

Date: 20 Aug 95 21:21:04 EDT

I am on my way back home after having about 36 hours off from training.
I have finished ground school, the written exam, the 3 hour oral exam,
and fixed-base simulator training.  I have my first full-flight simulator
session at 1pm this afternoon.  In all, I will have spent about 80 hours
in "the box" before I go on the line.  I'll finish up ground training on
30 August and go on I.O.E. (initial operating experience) sometime during
the first 10 days of Sept.  I will then go on vacation to the Reno Air
Races until the 21st and then out on "the line" as an A320 F/O.  So far
the training has been very good, and the aircraft is OK but not

The A320 is used by us to fly mainly the 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hour legs,
typically half-transcontinental, such as our central hub to SEA or SAN.
Many of the layovers are in SEA, SFO and SAN on the west coast and BWI,
BOS, etc. on the east coast.

My general impressions of the aircraft:

Many of the systems/features are excellent, but a few are well below
average.  (Note: since I haven't flown the actual aircraft yet, comments
about handling are really relative to the simulator.  Comments about
systems are from an operational point of view, not a maintenance/
engineering point of view since we didn't cover the actual design of the
systems in class.)


1.  Fly-by-wire.  The flight control laws and the failure degradation
modes are excellent.  The flight control laws are: Normal Law, Alternate
Law, Direct Law, Mechanical Backup, and Unusual Attitude Law.  It requires
multiple failures of similar but independent systems to degrade.  It takes
a degradation of two levels to reach the same flight characteristics that
a 727/737/DC-9 starts out with.  We have had only one degradation to
Alternate Law in the time we've been flying them.  The minimal mechanical
backup available (rudder and pitch trim) is intended to allow the pilot
time to get a computer back up on line and should be adequate.

2. Sidestick controller:  This is GREAT!!!! It is natural from either
seat. It takes only about 10 seconds to feel comfortable with it.  I think
Boeing missed the boat by putting a yoke in the 777.  It is different from
the F-16 in that it has much more movement (about an inch and a half in
any direction).  I think that there should be more "feel" but it's pretty
good as it is.

3. Main systems:  All of the main aircraft systems, hydraulics, electrical,
pneumatic, brakes, etc. are well configured from an operational point of
view.  Systems recover/reconfigure from failures well and are easy to
understand and manage.  I don't know about the robustness of the systems,
but we are getting good dispatch reliability so they must be OK.  Rumors
have it that the mechanics think that we'll have reliability problems in
the future due to the "mimimum gauge" philosophy that is found in all
new-generation aircraft.

4. APU:  The APU itself is fine but there is one very poor flight deck
mechanization.  It in not possible to tell directly from the overhead
panel whether or not the APU is on-line and powering the aircraft.  I
believe that a mis-design of switch moding is to blame.  Someone just
wasn't thinking operationally here.

5. Flight Management Guidance System.(FMGS)  If there is a weakpoint, this
is it!  The system was designed by Honeywell of Minneapolis and they were
not allowed to look at, or use any Boeing ideas.  We can't completely
blame the frogs for this.  I would have to say that I find the system to
be inconsistant from mode to mode and it is apparent that it was designed
by EE's sitting at a desk and not by operationally oriented people.  Each
mode has a certain "logic" to it and you can make a good argument for each
individual case, but as a complete system, it is seriously lacking.  There
are some basic ATC functions that can't be done at all!  It looks like
the chief of avionics integration/flightdeckers didn't do their job very
well.  As always, pilots can adapt, and I'm sure that I'll overlook the
numerous faults shortly, but there shouldn't be any faults in the interface
and there are.

6. Autothrottles:  I don't like the autothrottles that don't move.  I much
prefer the feedback that moving levers provide.  I am sure that I'll get
used to it in the future, but I think that this is a basic
pilot-integration shortcoming of the A-320.  Boeing is definately right
in my opinion.

7. ACARS/FMGS integration:  There isn't any!  The ACARS doesn't talk to
the FMGS and vice versa. (even thought they use the same interface panel).
It is often necessary to enter the same data more than once.  In a perfect
world ACARS data would be available to the FMGS and the pilot would have
the option on auto-inserting it or putting it in manually.

8. Inertial Reference System (not INS!!!)  The system is poorly designed
from my point of view.  The three ring laser gyros can not be updated.
The FMGS calculates where it believes the aircraft is by using a weighted
position from the three RLG's and  DME/DME or VOR/DME to determine a
position, but the IRS itself is never updated.  I believe that it should
have been mechanized such that the IRS tracks drift rate and uses that
info to provide update biases.

9.  The aircraft can't dump fuel and the max landing weight is
significantly lower than the max togw.

10.  The aircraft has 40 some computers but doesn't even have a basic
calculator function on any display.  How thoughtful....

11.  Pitch trim indications are labeled such that they indicate the
position of the l.e. of the stab.  Thus a small nose up pitch trim setting
would be labeled "-1.0 "  This has the possibility of causing problems.
The trim works correctly of course.  It's just labeled wrong from my

12.  More FMGS stuff:  It's easy to do hard stuff... but hard to do easy
stuff!  Fully automatic CAT III approaches and landing are a snap, but
just going around tha pattern doing touch and go's is a major pain in the
ass.  The PNF is always heads-down typing on the damn panel.

13.  Gust Load Aleviation:  They put in a gust load function.  I've heard
about the idea for 20 years but apparently no one ever actually put one
on an aricraft before the A-320.  It doesn't work......

In summary:

Like any other airplane in the world, the A-320 has both good points and
bad points.  It they had thought more about how the operator uses the
airplane to make the flight go easier and less about optimizing the
computer to make it efficient from a code point of view, the aircraft
would have been better.  However, it is quite adequate as it is and as
always the pilots are left to adapt to the deficiencies.  Then an accident

Did I hear someone say "Design-induced pilot error...?"

David Lednicer             | "Applied Computational Fluid Dynamics"
Analytical Methods, Inc.   |   email:   dave@amiwest.com
2133 152nd Ave NE          |   tel:     (206) 643-9090
Redmond, WA  98052  USA    |   fax:     (206) 746-1299