How To Fly An Airbus


The Airbus A320 family is a family of short- to medium-range, narrow-body, commercial passenger jet manufactured by Airbus. The family includes the A318, A319, A320, and A321, as well as the ACJ business jet.

The first member of the A320 family, the A320, was launched in March 1984, first flew on 22 February 1987, and was first delivered in 1988. The family was soon extended to include the A321 (first delivered 1994), the A319 (1996), and the A318 (2003). The A320 family pioneered the use of digital fly-by-wire flight control systems in a commercial aircraft. It was also the first, and currently the only, narrow body aircraft in the Airbus lineup.

With over 4,000 built and an additional 2,400 on order as of November 2009, the Airbus A320 family is Airbus's best-selling aircraft to date. It is also the second best-selling jet airliner family, behind its competitor, the Boeing 737.

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Below is a comprehensive description of how to fly the Airbus a320 and more specifically how to fly the Take-Off and Landing. The Airbus a320 is a very complex aircraft that is simple to operate and fly. I hope you enjoy reading the descriptions below. I have tried to keep it as straightforward as possible but there are still many technical terms.



While turning onto the runway, it is important not to waste any runway length lining-up so a rolling take-off is recommended. 

If ATC requests you to maintain runway centre line, simply turn the HDG selector and select the desired HDG target. NAV mode will disarm and RWY TRK mode will engage on the FD after lift off and will guide the A/C on the runway centre line.

Set the power in two stages by allowing the engines to stabilise at approximately 50% N1 / I.05 EPR, before setting FLEX or TOGA power. The engine page will be automatically displayed on the SD. 

Ensure FMA annunciations are called (including the Flex ºC) and a check of the FM position update is performed. FLEX or TOGA thrust must be achieved before reaching 80 kts. The PNF is to check power is set correctly according to the called out FLEX ºC and to call “Power Set” before 80 kts. The FADEC converts the Flex temperature entered on the Takeoff Performance page into an N1 or EPR value. The achievement of this specific value (N1 or EPR) as shown on the Upper ECAM screen is what the PNF checks to ensure that the Power is “Set”.

At VR, rotate the aircraft smoothly at 3º / second towards 10º nose up, and when airborne continue rotation towards 15º to follow the SRS. During this time the control laws will blend into flight mode. The FD does not provide a rotation rate order, but a pitch order to fly the T/O speed profile once airborne.

Early rotation, over-rotation and excessive pitch rate or any combination may all cause a tail strike. In the event of a tail strike an immediate return to land should be considered.

Use the rudder pedals to steer the A/C once you aligned with the runway centre line. The Nose wheel steering effect of rudder displacement reduces with increased speed and at 130 kts rudder control is purely aerodynamic.

In case of low visibility take off visual cues are the primary means to track the runway centre line. If there is an active Localiser for the departure runway, the PFD yaw bar reproduces the LOC and provides assistance in case of fog patches. The FMA annunciation RWY is confirmation of LOC reception for this function. 

The PNF should monitor the altimeter, VSI and RA for confirmation of positive climb, and when confirmed from these three sources should announce “Positive Climb” at which call the PF commands “Gear Up”

The default values for THR RED and ACCEL ALT are both 1500 ft AGL in the FMS but in cases of noise abatement are modifiable by the pilot as required.

At thrust reduction altitude, the message LVR CLB flashes in the FMA Thrust Column until the thrust levers are placed in the CLB detent. Reduce aircraft pitch attitude, and with a positive speed trend, reduce thrust to the climb detent. 

Reaching the ACCEL ALT, the target speed is set automatically to initial climb speed. (By default 250 kts below FL100) so there is a significant pitch down order on the FD bar.

Retract Flaps when the IAS>F with a positive speed trend.

Retract Slats when the IAS>S with a positive speed trend.

(The F and S speeds are the minimum speeds for flap retraction and not speeds at which retraction is essential. Ensure a positive speed trend before flap retraction).

Once established in departure complete the after take-off items and then the after take-off checklist.

If a packs off take-off was carried out, PACK 1 should be selected on at thrust reduction and PACK 2 when the slats have been retracted


More information about the SRS function:

A simplified description is that with all engines operative, the SRS commands a pitch leading to an IAS = V2 +10 and, that with one engine inoperative, it commands a pitch giving the greater of the current speed or V2. 

The guidance law also includes attitude protection during take-off (18º, or 22.5º in windshear) and flight path angle protection ensuring a minimum vertical speed of +120 ft/min.

This is why the IAS actually flown is neither V2 + 10 (All Engines Operating) nor V2 (One Engine Inoperative).

The take-off SRS mode provides a pitch command to fly a given speed schedule during the take-off segments, but during rotation it is not intended to provide pitch rate command.

2. The recommended flap configuration to provide best tail clearance at take off is CONF 2. It is therefore to be used whenever performance allows. A further consideration is that when CONF 1 + F is chosen, take off close to V2 mini may have to be achieved.

In order to avoid a tail strike, rotate at VR (not before) and input a constant and smooth rotation without any aggressive or abrupt aft action on the side stick (particularly when a positive attitude has been achieved already).


A significant problem with a Heavy Weight Take-Off compared to a Take-Off performed at a normal “Training Weight” is that after initiation of rotation the main undercarriage wheels remain in contact with the ground for a measurable amount of time. This in itself should not create a problem except
where the “Gear Up” call is made too soon after the “Rotate” call (in other words before the “Positive Climb” call).

If an engine were to fail after the “Rotate” call there will be a measurable delay before the aircraft is safely airborne and the undercarriage can be retracted (with the additional drag occasioned by the opening of the Gear Doors). 


A specific technique is used to set the take off thrust when there is a crosswind greater than 20 kts, or a tailwind component. In a Normal Take off the thrust is set to 50% N1 (1.05 EPR) and the aircraft commences  rolling and accelerating due to the applied thrust. As engine response is slow below 50% N1 (1.05 EPR) but relatively fast above this value we check to see if both engines have reached this value corresponding to the TLA before advancing both thrust levers to the take off setting. This means that the aircraft will be moving along the runway with the thrust equivalent to about half thrust while we check that both engines are giving the same amount of thrust. In a normal situation this is acceptable but in a tailwind, or crosswind, we don’t want to consume runway without the correct thrust set.

We therefore adopt the following strategy. Commence setting the thrust in the same manner as a normal take off but with full forward side stick. As the thrust increases towards the 50% N1 (1.05EPR) value move the thrust levers to approximately 70% N1 (1.15 EPR) and, as the thrust indication passes the 50% N1 (1.05 EPR) mark place the thrust levers in the FLX or TOGA detent before 40 kts. (This procedure prevents the thrust from plateauing at 50% N1 or 1.05 EPR during the aircraft acceleration phase). Keep the stick full forward until 80 kts and then progressively release your input to neutral by 100 kts. 

In a conventional aircraft the ailerons are applied “into wind” to counteract the extra lift developed by the into wind wing. As the aircraft speed increases this into wind aileron is reduced so that at rotation the ailerons are neutral.

However with an Airbus FBW aircraft the placing of the side stick “into wind” will result in raising the spoilers on the into wind wing and so effect performance and controllability. For this reason only a very limited amount of into wind side stick is used. Simulator motion limitations may make the crosswind takeoff seem as if the aircraft is not tracking the runway centreline but once rotation is commenced this limitation is transparent.

On rotation the side stick is centralised so as not to give a roll demand.


Conducting an autoland from an ILS approach is the only occasion where we don’t take control of the aircraft with the autopilot disconnected and land it manually. If we disconnect the AP at the MDA or DH on an ILS the aircraft is moving on a stable trajectory and all that is required is to flare and reduce the thrust to land.

As a basic rule for all approaches, not later than 1000 ft AGL, the PF should have one hand on the THRUST LEVERS and the other one on the side stick.

This should apply irrespective of Auto Pilot and Auto Thrust selection.

During the final visual segment of the approach it is very important not to over control with the sidestick. The aircraft will maintain pitch and roll attitudes resisting any atmospheric disturbance until 50 ft when the landing mode becomes active. Landing mode is only a pitch mode and roll control is the same as normal law until the wheels are on the ground.

When reaching 50 ft RA, the pitch law blends into flare mode. The system memorises the attitude at 50 ft, and that attitude becomes the initial reference for pitch attitude control. As the aircraft descends through 30 ft, the system reduces (over 8 seconds) the pitch attitude to minus 2º. Consequently as the speed reduces, the pilot will have to pull back on the side stick to maintain a constant path. The Flare technique is thus very conventional.

At approximately 20 ft the thrust levers should be moved to the idle detent. 

The RETARD call out (at 20 ft / 10 ft for an Autoland) is a reminder for the pilot to retard the thrust levers, if he hasn’t already done so. Remember that if Auto Thrust is engaged it will remain engaged until the thrust levers reach the idle detent. Consequently, if you are late in retarding the thrust levers in a MANUAL landing, the A/THR will add thrust during the Flare to keep the A/C on target speed.

Therefore the correct technique is to move the thrust levers  smartly to the idle position when you no longer need the engine thrust during the flare. 

In order to assess the Flare and the A/C position versus the ground, look out well ahead of the A/C.

The typical pitch increment in Flare is approximately 4° which leads to a - 1° flight path angle associated to a 10 kts speed decay in the manoeuvre.

Common faults are too high speed drop below VAPP (pitch up to avoid high sink rate), prolonged hold off to do grease the landing, and flare too high and consequently no control of the de-rotation once the main wheels are on the ground.

De-rotation should be commenced as soon as the main wheels have touched.

The aircraft has a tendency to nose down naturally as the aft stick applied for the flare is relaxed towards neutral. A comfortable nose wheel touchdown will be achieved if the stick is maintained just aft of neutral during de-rotation.

There is a tendency to pitch-up due to the effect of the spoilers extending behind the Centre of Gravity. Smoothly control the de-rotation. Tail strike occurs (A320) at 13.5º or 11.5º (landing gear compressed), so pitch attitude should be monitored in the flare.

The recommended technique for a crosswind landing is (during the flare) to apply rudder to align the A/C on the runway centre line and counteract the rolling tendency with side stick (with possibly very slight wing down into a strong wind).

In a strong crosswind, a full decrab might lead to a significant into wind aileron input causing a significant bank angle.The pilot must be aware that there are aircraft geometry limitations in pitch and in bank not only to prevent incurring a tailstrike but to prevent scrapping the engine pod, the flaps or the wing tip. In such conditions, a partial decrab is preferable.

At touch down the ground spoilers will deploy automatically which may give a slight pitch up as mentioned above. Automatic ground spoiler deployment will occur with both main landing gear compressed or with one MLG on the ground and reverse thrust selected. Ground spoiler deployment will enable autobrake operation (if selected). The green DECEL light on the AUTO / BRK panel enable the crew to monitor whether the selected rate of deceleration is achieved. Remember that the autobrake can operate without the DECEL light illuminating. The DECEL light means that the desired rate of deceleration is being achieved, which may not be the case when the Braking Action is poor.

During the Roll Out use the rudder pedals to keep the aircraft on the runway centreline. 

Initially the rudder will be aerodynamically effective and below around 100 kts the Nose Wheel Steering function commanded by the pedals will take over.

Do not try and control the roll out with the NWS tiller.

In case of crosswind various precautions need to be considered. These include avoiding deflecting the stick into wind. It will not assist in aircraft control but has adverse side effects on braking. Side stick input creates a down force on the wheels on the into wind side due to the aileron deflection and spoiler activation, and it creates a differential drag effect due to spoiler retraction on the out of wind side. These differential effects favour the weather-cocking tendency of the aircraft.

In cases of lateral control problem in high crosswind landings reduce the reverse thrust to idle.

At lower speeds, on wet and contaminated runways the directional control of the A/C may be more difficult. If necessary use differential braking. 

The Ground Spoilers, the Thrust Reversers and the Wheel Brakes are the three means of retardation on the ground.

The Ground Spoilers contribute to the aircraft deceleration by aerodynamic drag and they increase considerably the wheel braking efficiency by increasing the load on the wheels.

The thrust reversers have a significant braking effect at higher speeds, but below about 70 kts their efficiency drops rapidly. Their efficiency is independent to the runway condition. The Maximum reverse thrust is obtained between N1 values of 70% to 85%. In an emergency situation it is permissible to keep Maximum Reverse thrust down to aircraft stop. 

The Actual Landing distances demonstrated in flight test and provided in the FCOM and QRH does not include the use of reversers (which constitute a safety margin). 

The wheel brakes are the main factors in aircraft deceleration on ground. The brake force from wheels are a function of -

- the load on the wheels,
- the effectiveness of the brakes and anti skid system,
- the contact area of the tires with the runway,
- the friction coefficient between the tires and the runway.

Thus the braking efficiency depends upon the A/C speed, the load on wheels, the wheel speed (free rolling, skidding or locked wheels), the runway condition and also the brake temperature and wear.

The antiskid system maintains the skidding factor close to the point providing maximum friction force. With maximum manual braking and with anti skid operative the typical deceleration rate is 10 kts/sec (or .5g). 

With Carbon brakes, the wear is directly linked to the number of pedal applications. Pressing the pedals and modulating the pressure without releasing the pedals is therefore a recommended technique for minimizing the brake wear.

You may use either Manual braking or Autobrake. Autobrake may be used in LO or MED for landing, (MAX is only used for take-off). Auto brake controls a given deceleration rate (LO: 0.15g and MED: 0.3g). The DECEL light indicates that the selected deceleration rate is being achieved. In other words the DECEL light is not an indicator of the Autobrake operation, but that the selected deceleration rate is being achieved.

Use of Autobrake minimises the number of brake applications and so the brake wear. Consequently it is recommended to use it when available, unless not needed.

To disconnect the Autobrake, pressure needs to be applied to one brake pedal only. However the normal method of disarming the Autobrake is by even pressure on both brake pedals. The auto brake may also be disconnected by action on the respective AUTO / BRK pushbutton (not  recommended as both pilots should be heads up during the landing roll) or by pushing down the speedbrake control lever. Autobrake should be disconnected before 20 kts is reached.

Max reverse (or idle reverse depending on airport regulations or airline policy) should be selected immediately after main gear touchdown. Reduce reverse thrust to idle at 70 kts. 

Idle reverse may remain selected until the airplane is at taxi speed. The PNF should monitor spoiler deployment (ECAM WHEEL page), operation of reverse thrust (E/WD) and the operation of Autobrake (green DECEL light on AUTO/BRK panel) and notify the PF of any abnormal indications


At the heart of the Airbus a320 is the ECAM system, which is an excellent tool to manage complex system failures. Most pilots take a little time to learn how to manage and run ECAM well within the two crew operation.


The Electronic Centralised Aircraft Monitoring (ECAM) system monitors and displays all information concerning aircraft systems and system failures and thus reports the status of the aircraft. It is a system which displays the aircraft system information, monitors the aircraft systems, and provides the actions required by the crew in most normal / abnormal and emergency situations.

Display of system failures and take off and landing memo is flight phase sensitive. Take off and landing memo are only displayed at the appropriate phase of flight. 


Some warnings and cautions are suppressed during take off and landing, however failures critical to a particular phase of flight will always be displayed.

On the System Display screen some pages are phase-selected i.e. the WHEEL page is automatically displayed after engine start. The cruise page is not selectable, but is continuously displayed from 1500 ft after take-off to landing gear extension unless a warning / caution is displayed, or a system page has been manually selected.


The criticality of a failure is graded from 1 to 3 and this is reflected in the warning or caution given.


Level 1 is displayed in amber on the Engine Warning Display (EWD). There is no Master Caution associated with a Level 1 warning.

Level 2 is associated with a Master Caution and is displayed in amber on the EWD along with an Amber “Land as soon as Practicable” message.

Level 3 is associated with a Master Warning and is displayed in red on the EWD along with a Red “Land as soon as Possible” message.

In addition to the three levels of warning or caution, the ECAM also differentiates between three types of failures as follows:

INDEPENDENT FAILURES. A failure that does not affect other systems. The system title is underlined on the EWD.

PRIMARY FAILURE. A failure that affects other systems and causes secondary failures. The failure title is boxed on the EWD.

SECONDARY FAILURE. A failure that is caused by a primary failure and not by an unserviceability of that particular system. Secondary failures are in amber preceded by an asterisk on the bottom right hand side of the EWD.

If a failure of a system affects another system, the Flight Warning Computer will display the PRIMARY FAILURE first followed by the SECONDARY (or consequential) failure.

In the event of multiple failures there is a hierarchy determining the order in which failures are displayed on the EWD i.e. Level 3 takes priority over Level 2. Furthermore there is a hierarchy within each of the three levels to ensure that the most critical failures are displayed first.

Whenever a failure or an advisory occurs, the associated System Display page is provided on the lower CRT. This allows the crew to analyse the situation, as shown by the status of the affected components in the diagram. If a procedure is proposed to the crew for action then the instruction disappears after it has been carried out, IF there is feedback from that item.



The Airbus a320 was the first aircraft to use fly by wire technology and was very misunderstood by many pilots for years. To some extent it still is. Once you understand the technology and the protections the Airbus has available it becomes apparent what an amazing aircraft it is.


Above is only a small selection of how to fly the Airbus a320.

Do you want to know more? If the answer is yes, then join one of the a320typerating team at an assessment to take your career forward.

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