The Covid-19 pandemic has hit a severe blow to the economy worldwide and none has been hit as bad as the aviation industry. Not one to be put down, aircraft manufacturers have been looking for ways to beat around it and one such aerospace giant,Airbus, is already looking towards a new plane to help drive its recovery and get a leg up on rival Boeing.
The XLR stands for Extra Long Range and the aircraft can more than handle crossing the North Atlantic, opening up the possibility airlines can use it on routes that have been the preserve of wide-body long-range aircraft up to now.
What Sets It Apart..
- INCREDIBLE RANGE : As the very name suggests, this marvel of technology pushes the range to the highest of any narrow body present today- 8,700 Kms (4, 700 NM). A typical A321 NEO has a range of just under 6,000Kms while a B737-8 reaches out to about 6,570Kms.
- Now unlike the A350 XWB(Extra Wide Body), the A321 XLR isn’t exactly fresh-off-the-menu design.Airbus has been constantly upgrading the A320 family and this is a result of one such upgrade as well.
- It has already bagged a staggering 450 orders from over 20 airlines and is scheduled to start deliveries by 2023.
- This aircraft will provide airlines with a range of up to 4,700nm and a 30% lower fuel burn and CO2 emissions per seat compared with previous-generation aircrafts.
- The aircraft is positioned at what is known as the “middle of the market” in the aviation industry — the gap between single-aisle narrow-body aircrafts and twin-aisle wide-body aircrafts.
The Rear Centre Tank- the XLR performance masterpiece
The RCT, which is unique to the new long-range A321XLR, is a permanently installed high-capacity fuel tank that makes maximum volumetric use of the aircraft’s lower fuselage.
Integrated in fuselage sections 15 and 17 and located behind the main landing gear bay ,it holds up to 13,100 litres, which is more fuel than several Additional Centre Tanks (ACTs) combined could previously hold in the A321 aircraft Family.
In parallel to this, the structural assembly of section 15 started in mid April with the integration of the shells from the supplier RUAG, the Centre Wing Box coming from Airbus Nantes, and the keel beam and Rear Flange Module supplied by Premium AEROTEC.
In the coming weeks, the teams will finalize the integration of the RCT module into section 17, with the structural assembly of the second flight test aircraft. The equipment assembly phase of the first aircraft is planned in the autumn, followed by a dedicated period for flight test equipment installation.
Current Orders So Far
US airlines have the largest orders with American Airlines,United Airlines and Jetblue ,all, with a major chunk of the orders.
Europe has Wizz Air with 20 aircrafts on order, Iberia has eight, Aer Lingus six, and Czech Airlines has seven.
Asian LCC- AirAsia X has 30 aircraft on order, Vietnamese airline VietJet has 15.
With the pandemic having decimated air traffic, airlines are likely to have even more need for such aircraft as they rebuild their route networks.
An A321 XLR “costs much less to buy and service” as well as fly than a wide-body aircraft.
“Pilot training — an important element of costs — can be mutualised between long-haul operations and those for short- and medium-haul flights.
With the development of the A321XLR, Boeing faces a very serious mid-market challenge. This aircraft is scheduled to enter service in 2023.
- COVER PIC COURTESY : airfieldnews.com