Airbus A320 is a Very Popular Model and Relatively Safe

March 24, 2015 Updated: March 24, 2015

The Airbus A320 model was involved in two recent, high-profile crashes.

The Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday was an Airbus A320, as was the AirAsia plane that crashed in late December—albeit a different variation. 

The Germanwings plane was an A320-211. There were 150 people on board the plane when it went down. AirAsia Flight QZ8501 went missing over the Java Sea between Surabaya and Singapore, killing all 162 people on board, on Dec. 24, 2014. That model was an A320-216.

The A320 is a family of medium-range, narrow-body commercial airliners that includes the A318, A319, A320 and A321. 

Airbus has said the entire A320 fleet has accumulated a total of 150 million flight hours in 85 million flights, meaning they’re one of the most popular passenger jets in the world, comparable to the Boeing 737. A total of 6,415 of the A320 airliners have been produced. Around 8,400 Boeing 737s have been produced.

“The A320 has a fantastic safety record,” Phil Seymour, the head of the International Bureau of Aviation, told CNN. “There have been a couple of incidents, but generally speaking, they’re safer than most aircraft out there now.”

Seymour noted that the 24-year-old plane would have been close to the final years of its life, but it would not impact the safety.

“Airlines would usually consider retiring an aircraft at the 25–30 years point because maintenance costs increase beyond that,” he told the network. “These things fly day-in and day-out and are designed to go on and on. Airlines usually only decide to retire them because maybe there’s a younger aircraft that doesn’t use as much fuel and doesn’t cost so much to run.”

The Airbus A320 entered service in 1988. The Aviation Safety Network said there have been 56 A320 incidents, which includes the crash on Tuesday. 

“We have been informed of an accident involving an A320 family aircraft and all efforts are now going toward assessing the situation,” Airbus said in a statement on Tuesday. “We will provide further information as soon as available.”

It’s worth noting the “Miracle on the Hudson” New York City plane incident in 2009 also involved an Airbus A320. In 2009, pilot Chesley Sullenberger landed a U.S. Airways plane on the Hudson River in New York after the plane hit a bird. Everyone on the plane survived.

The Flight Safety Foundation, an industry group that looks at aviation safety, said Germanwings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, hadn’t been involved in a major accident prior to Tuesday’s air disaster.

“Germanwings has not had a major accident before today and the Airbus 320 has a fleet of nearly 6,200 aircraft operating worldwide. We expect that the investigators from the French and German authorities will find the black boxes and the cause of this tragedy will be determined quickly,” it stated.