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Airbus begins production of extra-long-range A321

February 5, 2021 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Airbus has begun production of a new, fuel-efficient, extra-long-range version of its A321 twinjet, capable of flying up to 8700 kilometres without refuelling, bringing non-stop flights from Sydney to Tokyo, and many more regional points, within range.

Production of any new airliner is good news at a time when the aviation industry is still depressed by the pandemic. The A321 is a popular aircraft. Qantas’ first A321 took to the air last October, carrying cargo rather than passengers and operated with Australia Post.

Air New Zealand is a big user of the A321. In December, huge demand for domestic travel led that airline to add capacity totalling around 16,000 seats, partially by switching the aircraft it uses on many Auckland-Wellington and Auckland-Christchurch flights from the 171-seat Airbus A320 to the new and larger 214-seat A321.

The new Airbus A321XLR will deliver an unprecedented “Xtra Long Range” of up to 4700 nautical miles (8704 kilometres) – which is 15% more than the A321LR version and with the same fuel efficiency.

An Airbus statement just issued said industrialisation and parts production for the first A321XLR was underway across Airbus sites and the company’s wider supply chain, paving the way for the major component assembly of the first forward fuselage, centre and rear fuselage sections and the wings, to begin later in 2021.

“The production of components for the first A321XLR flight-test aircraft is progressing through the sites all across the world, for large and small components as well as systems,” notes Gary O’Donnell, Head of the A321XLR program.

“In parallel, many parts are already being tested and demonstrated – on both the aircraft structure and on the systems side – to validate the functionality of all those first aircraft components.”

O’Donnell added: “The production system in particular is now coming alive, with our teams receiving the design drawings from Airbus and the key risk-sharing design partners and bringing them into physical reality.

“This progress already is enabling Airbus’ factories across Europe and the UK to prepare their ‘pilot’ operations for the major component assembly phase to begin later this year, and in turn, for the subsequent induction of the first completed major component assembly’s into the final assembly line at Hamburg in the second part of the year.”

While all major sections of the A321XLR contain significant design changes from the current A321neo/A321LR baseline aircraft, the major component assembly with extensive design and manufacturing differences is the centre and aft fuselage.

This is especially due to the centre and aft fuselage’s totally new integral rear centre fuel tank and associated fuel management systems – which is key to the aircraft’s eXtra Long Range performance capability, while retaining operational commonality with the baseline A321neo.

 Edited by Peter Needham

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