Lufthansa Blocks A320neo Seats Over Center Of Gravity Issues

Filed Under: Lufthansa

As we all know, nowadays airlines do everything they can to squeeze as many seats as possible onto planes, especially when we’re talking about short haul configured aircraft of European airlines.

They’ve been able to make these planes more “efficient” by reducing legroom, making the seats thinner, and eliminating as much galley and bathroom space as possible.

Well, an airline is now facing a situation where they’re being forced to block a row of seats on a very efficient plane for a surprising reason.

Lufthansa’s A320neo

The A320neo is the most fuel efficient version of the A320, with the “neo” designation standing for “new engine option.” Lufthansa has quite a few of these planes in their fleet. Initially they had “only” 180 seats of these planes, but they’ve been able to squeeze 186 seats onto these planes. Woot, woot, well done, Lufthansa!

A320neo Center Of Gravity Issues

While the airline might be proud of how many seats they’ve squeezed onto the plane, Simple Flying is reporting that Lufthansa is now blocking the last row of seats on A320neos due to center of gravity concerns. Could a 150,000 pound plane really be thrown off by passengers sitting in the last row? Yes and no.

We all know about the issues that the 737 MAX has had, and while not quite as serious, some issues have also been identified with the A320neo.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has discovered a problem with the center of gravity of the A320neo. Essentially there’s a very narrow set of circumstances under which the A320neo’s elevator and aileron computer may not correctly compensate for the situation the plane is facing.

It seems that the most common situation here is when a plane is landing, and if it has to perform a go around. In these situations the elevator and aileron computer should compensate for the center of gravity being slightly off. But it has been discovered that with a center of gravity towards the rear of the aircraft, the computer may not respond correctly.

Now, it’s worth knowing that this has never been encountered during operations, but rather was discovered during analysis and laboratory testing.

Still, the EASA has issued an airworthiness directive limiting the aft CG, which is below the previous limit.

Why Is This Specifically Impacting Lufthansa’s A320neos?

Interestingly this issue only impacts Lufthansa A320neo aircraft with the new Space Flex cabins. These planes feature an extra row of seats, and the way they’re able to squeeze in those extra seats is by more efficiently using every part of the aircraft.

For example, the bathrooms are at the very back of the plane behind the galley, using space that previously wasn’t used. Clearly this moves the center of gravity of the plane back a bit.

Bottom Line

Sometimes when you’re flying a turboprop or small regional jet they’ll ask you to move around for weight & balance, though you wouldn’t expect a row of seats would have to be blocked on an A320.

It would appear that Lufthansa will keep this seat blocking in place for the foreseeable future, and not actually reconfigure any planes. It’s expected that a software fix will be available sometime next year that fixes this.

Interesting stuff, eh?

Comments
  1. Remove the seats and install a self-service drinks bar? Marketing advantage and we know it won’t be used by standing passengers anywhere near the ground….

  2. Other airlines are not affected?

    The 186 seat is popular among low-cost carriers. Do they also block them off too?

  3. If BA are having a similar issue, all they’ll have to do is reintroduce the centre seat console tray in Club Europe to redress the balance..or imbalance. 🙂

  4. Thats also the raison why their neo’s don’t have wifi installed, the weight of the antenna moves the centre of gravity to much aft.

  5. Years ago, flying IL62’s from LHR to WAW, passengers were requested to sit in the forward part of the cabin for taxiing and take off. There was a stampede of smokers to the back as soon as the seat belt light went off. Stability issues? I think so, otherwise why the rear wheel strut.

  6. “It’s expected that a software fix will be available sometime next year that fixes this.”

    So let’s hear it from all those who are anti-software “fixes” on this Airbus NEO vs. Boeing MAX …

  7. CofG issues are nothing new. Have flown on aircraft going back over 50 years where seat rows have been blocked due to light loads and weight and balance calculations have determined certain seats could not be occupied. The difference today is if you cram in an extra row of seats beyond the original design expectations and fill them with pax at or over the average weight used for calculations plus the weight of carry ons, you may well cause problems in certain circumstances and that is what the EASA is trying to avoid. Unlike the problems with the 737MAX this is not a generic design fault but a customer specified modification having the potential to cause the aircraft to exceed it’s designed operating parameters in a given set of circumstances.

  8. @Phil Blinkhorn — “Unlike the problems with the 737MAX this is not a generic design fault but a customer specified modification having the potential to cause the aircraft to exceed it’s designed operating parameters in a given set of circumstances.”

    But, as @Sam posted before you — “Swiss had the same ‘issue’ in 2018 on their ‘old’ A320Ceo and the incident almost happened in Geneva. Swiss also left the last row unoccupied. This was reported in April 2018.

    So this is strictly not an issue just with LH A320neos with the Space Flex Cabins!!!”

    @Phil Blinkhorn — are you, therefore, implying that Swiss Air also violated original “design specs” with their seating layouts, despite *not* being Space Flex and on a legacy A320ceo?

  9. Delta has had a weight problem on some narrow body planes, after adding extra seats, they risk the plane tipping backwards when the plane is unloading (when the front passengers get off but the rear passengers are still on). Their solution is to have the ground crew scramble to install a support pole from the rear of the aircraft to the ground immediately after the plane parks at a gate, to prevent the plane from tipping backwards.

  10. Well, it’s only an issue for Ultra-Low-Cost carriers such as LH, which put 189 seats into the plane. I hope they will not be able to use it for long time … that helps them to learn the lesson well.

  11. Interesting they don’t choose to move cargo in the belly instead, leave the last cargo space empty, or add ballast to the front.

  12. On a recent AS 737-900ER flight from ORD to ANC the passengers seated in the rear were told to move forward because of a weight imbalance. I happened to be in seat 6A so couldn’t see how many people that involved. Like @Alex, I wondered why they hadn’t loaded all the luggage and cargo in the forward compartment, since they must have known the flight wasn’t full.

  13. Do aircraft designers use differing average weights for premium cabin passengers and economy passengers (the latter likely being heavier than the former)?

  14. @cargocult — “Do aircraft designers use differing average weights for premium cabin passengers and economy passengers (the latter likely being heavier than the former)?”

    Perhaps aircraft designers can only design to generic ranges of parameters regarding weight distributions, since the passenger cabins are customized post-manufacturing by airlines and not by the aircraft manufacturers?

  15. Ryanair (!! I never fly them after their mass cancellations a few years ago) used to block off rows 3-5 on their B737s, if the flight was not full. If in Row 2 that was rather lovely.

    I understood (but may well have been wrong) that that was because they put all bags in the forward cargo hold for which ground handling charge less than using both holds?

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