Airbus receives certification for A321LR and locks in new launch customer
Airbus has successfully completed the flight test campaign for the A321LR (Long Range) and has received certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
The A321LR is capable of flying 4000 nautical miles with 206 passengers seated. This is accomplished by the installation of three additional fuel tanks, which requires structural reinforcement to the air frame as well as minor fuel system and software changes. ETOPS for 180 minutes also came with the certification from EASA and the FAA.
Modifications to the fuselage include the reconfiguration of the exit doors as well as structural changes to allow for a maximum takeoff weight of 97t. The new door reconfiguration will eventually become standard for all A321neos but the other changes will have to specified by the airline upon ordering and will be charged as an A321LR.
An incredible achievement during flight testing was flying from Seychelles to Toulouse non-stop with the equivalent of 162 passengers onboard, as well as five crew members and 11 technicians. Headwinds were present during the flight but engineers at Airbus have concluded that taking those into account, the aircraft effectively flew 4700 nautical miles. The duration of the flight was 11 hours.
Primera Air was set to become the launch customer for the A321LR but has since collapsed which you can read about here.
So who will be the next launch customer?
Arkia, which is an airline based in Israel, has been selected by Airbus to be the first airline to take delivery of the type. No date has been announced as of yet, however Airbus has stated that the aircraft is set to depart Hamburg for delivery within the next few weeks.
A total of 1985 Airbus A321neos have been ordered, which includes 120 A321LRs.
Boeing is yet to make a decision on an aircraft that will compete with the A321LR. Airbus is marketing it as a ‘Middle of the Market’ or MoM aircraft, saying it can replace the Boeing 757 with ease but airlines want Boeing’s side of the story. While no major announcement has been made, various case studies have been set up within Boeing to investigate and analyse the impact of a possible ‘797’.
Airbus is looking to further increase the range of the A321 by tweaking it aerodynamically and increasing the maximum takeoff weight. This has been dubbed the A321XLR across multiple discussions.
For now, the A321LR is the leader for this type of mission but time will tell what Boeing and Airbus decides to do.