Indian Airlines was primarily a domestic airline, later absorbed into Air India. When Airbus sold the airline a number of Airbus A320s, the European plane maker created a special version with unique landing gear just for them.
Aircraft manufacturers sometimes make special versions of their planes to meet the needs of specific operators. For example, Boeing made Qantas a shorter 707 than other airlines and many years later added a flight engineer position on Ansett’s Boeing 767s.
Airbus A320 Gear
The main landing gear on virtually all Airbus A320s features a two wheel bogie. With a maximum take-off weight of around 78 tons, the pair of wheels on each side is enough.
Many similarly sized planes feature the same kind of arrangement. You will find it on the British BAC 1-11, the American Douglas DC-9 and Boeing 737, the French Dassault Mercure, the Dutch Fokker F28 and more, so it is not unusual.
Why Special Landing Gear For Indian Airlines?
Between June 1989 and December 1994 a total of 31 Airbus A320s were delivered to Indian Airlines with special landing gear. These featured four wheel bogies on each side.
When an aircraft is using a runway, the weight is distributed by the landing gear, with the main gear bearing most of it. The more wheels you have, the less weight is pressed onto the ground by each one.
At the time, various airports in India did not have runways strong enough to handle the weight of the aircraft with the two wheel configuration. Therefore, the solution was to build a special version with a four wheel bogie.
This allowed Indian Airlines, and later Air India after the two airlines merged from 2007, to use the A320 throughout India. Infrastructure improvements eventually meant normal A320s could be used, but the ones built with four wheel bogies kept that configuration.
A Short Video Showing It In Action
You can see the Indian Airlines Airbus A320 with the double bogie main landing gear in action below. The video runs for about a minute and shows one taxiing at Delhi.
More wheels to distribute weight is not uncommon, with the Boeing 777 having six wheels on each side on their triple bogies. The winner is the Ukrainian built Antonov An-225 cargo plane though, with massive 14 wheel main bogies!
Air India continued to fly the ex-Indian Airlines Airbus A320s with special landing gear through to June 2019. The last example was retired from airline service then, which means you can no longer get on one.
It is an interesting example of Airbus doing something different for their customers, something they’re not particularly well known for. For India, it worked out very well as the aircraft saw 30 years of service.
Did you know that Airbus made Indian Airlines A320s with special landing gear? Ever been on one? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
Featured image by Sean d’Silva via Wikimedia Commons.
Air India image by Steven Byles via Wikimedia Commons.
IndiGo image by Laurent ERRERA via Wikimedia Commons.