А320 was the first civil aeroplane equipped with a digital fly-by-wire system.
The А320 required about 40 percent less kerosene, compared to the existing planes around at the time. This catapulted the excellent project well into the spotlight. When the prototype of the А320 undertook its first flight on 22 February 1987, some 400 orders were immediately received. A year later the first aeroplanes were delivered to companies eager to make use of them for their commercial flights. When the first planes of this type began flying international air routes 20 years ago, the А320 was considered so fashionable that it was often compared to a spaceship. For the first time in the history of aviation, all the information that a pilot would need was displayed graphically on a series of monitors.
The control of the plane was executed by a small sidestick, similar to a joystick from a computer game, in contrast with the big yokes in the older machines. It is worth noting that the А320 was the first civil aeroplane equipped with a digital fly-by-wire system. In other words, there’s no direct mechanical connection between the sidestick and the flight control surfaces of the machine. The pilot inputs commands, which are sent to an on-board computer. This computer then makes the necessary corrections and forwards signals to the flight control surfaces.
Speaking of computers, the А320 remains one of the most computerised aeroplanes to this day. The autopilot is so elaborate, that it follows a set route and speed effortlessly, controlling the plane and setting the necessary traction. Besides taking off and landing, all the crew has to do is monitor the flawless operation of the systems, correcting the itinerary if needed and communicating with the air traffic control tower.