A321XLR: longest-range narrowbody

Airbus’ newly launched A321XLR will have the longest range of any single aisle airliner.

At the Paris Air Show on June 17, Airbus launched an even longerrange subvariant of the A321neo called the A321XLR that will enter service in 2023.

The lessor Air Lease Corporation, which signed a letter of intent for 27 examples, and Middle East Airlines, which signed a firm order for four, were announced as A321XLR customers.

The A321XLR will offer up to 4,700 nautical miles (8,400km) range, making it the longest-range single aisle narrowbody airliner. This is 15% more range than the A321LR subvariant launched in 2016, which itself can fly 15% further than the baseline A321neo.

The A321XLR will typically seat between 180 and 220 passengers in a two-class layout. The aircraft has been designed for maximum commonality with the A321LR and the rest of the A320neo Family.

The additional range is possible because of an increased maximum take-offweight of 101 tonnes (222,666lb), which enables the aircraft to be fitted with a permanent rear centre tank (RCT), carrying 12,900 litres/2,837 gallons of fuel, and an optional forward additional centre tank. The A321XLR will also have an optimised wing trailing edge flap configuration to preserve the same take-offperformance and engine thrust requirements as the standard A321neo.

Airbus said: “The new optimised RCT holds more fuel than several optional additional centre tanks did previously, while taking up less space in the cargo hold, thus freeing up underfloor volume for additional cargo and baggage on long-range routes.”

According to Airbus, the A321XLR will be capable of operating routes such as London–Delhi, Miami–London, New York–Rome, Miami– Santiago, Hawaii–Houston, Tokyo–Sydney, Reykjavik–Dubai and Auckland–Hawaii.

The A321XLR, whose launch at Paris had been widely trailed, is intended to respond to the need for new midsize airliners. Airbus says the A321XLR will burn 30% less fuel per seat than what it calls “previous-generation competitor aircraft” in the midsize category such as Boeing 757s and 767s.

Airbus said: “Airlines will be able to operate a lower-cost singleaisle aircraft on longer and less heavily travelled routes, many of which can now only be served by larger and less efficient widebody aircraft. This will enable operators to open new world-wide routes such as India to Europe or China to Australia, as well as further extending the Family’s non-stop reach on direct transatlantic flights between continental Europe and the Americas.”

Confirmation that Airbus will produce another midsize mid-range airliner adds a new dimension to the contest between Airbus and Boeing.

Boeing has been studying a New Mid-market Airplane concept, dubbed the 797 by industry observers, and early in 2019 said it would decide this year on authority to offer before making a definitive launch decision in 2020 for an entry into service in 2025.

However, the 737 MAX 8’s grounding after the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March, the second disaster to befall the 737 MAX in the space of five months, and delays to the forthcoming 777X due to issues with the General Electric GE9X engine, mean decisions about a new midsize jet have dropped down the agenda.

Some observers speculate the lack of a midsize Boeing to rival the A321XLR (and the A321LR) means Airbus could dominate the so-called ‘middle of the market’ for aircraft sized between singleaisle narrowbody airliners and the smaller twin-aisle widebodies for many years to come.