DALLAS — Airbus has taken a new step forward in the line production of the upcoming Airbus A321XLR variant, which aims to be introduced as a new tool to connect smaller cities far away with a long-range narrow-body aircraft.
The manufacturer inaugurated today a new automated A321XLR equipping hangar at Hamburg-Finkenwerder Airport (XFW), home to the production and assembly of the long-successful Airbus A320 family of airplanes. This 9,600-square-meter facility will be dedicated to the installation and mounting of the rear fuselages of the XLR variant.
André Walter, Head of Airbus Commercial Aircraft Production in Germany, said, “With our new, state-of-the-art equipment installation hangar, we are now expanding our capacity to manufacture A321 fuselages and making an important contribution to supporting our ramp up. At the same time, we are reaffirming the importance of Hamburg for Airbus.”
The new hangar is equipped with a full range of advanced technologies for operations and manufacturing, such as automated logistics, fully digital systems, and test stations that can output the status of each fuselage section at any time.
Closer to an “Extra Large” Entry-Into-Service
The Airbus A321XLR, known as the “Xtra Long Range” variant, is a new version of the highly successful A320 family of aircraft.
This modification, which is based on the A321neo, significantly extends the range of the aircraft to 4700 nautical miles. This allows for previously unimaginable single-aisle routes, such as Madrid (MAD) to Seattle (SEA), Vienna (VIIE) to Hanoi (HAN), or Johannesburg (JNB) to Buenos Aires (EZE).
In addition to its impressive range, the A321XLR offers a 30% reduction in fuel burn per seat compared to previous-generation competing aircraft. This results in lower operating costs and a significant decrease in both noise and CO2 emissions.
While the program is on track for its planned entry-into-service in Q2 2024, there have been some challenges related to the redesign of the rear center fuel tank. This redesign is necessary to mitigate the risk of serious fires in the event of a survivable crash.
Orders for the A321XLR
Airbus’s latest project has received an impressive total of 570 orders from 27 different customers worldwide. Several airlines that focus on operating thin-demand long-haul routes have shown significant interest in the aircraft, including Icelandair (FI), IndiGo (6E), VietJet (VJ), and WizzAir (W6).
The transatlantic market is expected to see a high number of A321XLR aircraft. United Airlines (UA), American Airlines (AA), Iberia (IB), and Aer Lingus (EI) are among the carriers that have chosen this aircraft to connect smaller coastal cities with destinations on the other side of the ocean.
However, there are still critics within the airline community who question the viability of flying narrow-body airplanes on long-haul routes. They argue that the Airbus A321 cabin is too small and cramped for flights lasting eight to ten hours. What is your opinion on long-haul travel using single-aisle jets? Do you believe this approach holds promise for the industry?
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Featured image: Simone Chellini/Airways