Ultimately aviation safety is a collaborative effort, but are there limits to that?
Boeing’s Airbus A321XLR fuel tank concerns
In June 2019, Airbus revealed the new A321XLR, which will be the longest range narrow body aircraft in the world in 2023, when deliveries are scheduled to start.
This plane has been extremely popular with airlines — hundreds have already been ordered, and Boeing is nowhere near having an aircraft that can compete with this, so it’s no doubt a huge competitive advantage for Airbus.
American Airlines has ordered 50 Airbus A321XLRs
Well, Bloomberg is reporting that Boeing has expressed safety concerns with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) over the A321XLR. This is in response to a consultation paper by the regulator about Airbus’ plans to install insulation panels on the floor of the A321XLR.
In a filing, Boeing’s director of global regulatory strategy stated that:
“Fuel tanks integral to the airframe structure inherently provide less redundancy than structurally separate fuel tanks.”
Essentially the Airbus A321XLR will have extra fuel tanks underneath the floor of the passenger cabin, to give the plane additional range. Airbus is looking to install insulation panels between the cabin and fuel tanks — since there isn’t enough room to install ones fully meeting existing standards, the company needs some regulations to change.
Airbus now needs to prove through tests that these fuel tanks are as safe as previous designs. In the meantime Boeing is expressing concerns. The EASA has stated that it agrees with Boeing’s concerns around the “structural crashworthiness” of the tanks, and the risks of fire due to heat transfer from an external threat.
Airbus will have to prove that new A321XLR fuel tanks don’t pose a threat
Fair, ironic, or both?
Like I said, aviation safety is an industry-wide effort, so on the surface all safety concerns about a new design should be shared, in my opinion.
At the same time, given that this is coming from Boeing, the motive sure seems questionable. Boeing has just spent the past two years trying to get its 737 MAX ungrounded after two fatal crashes. Investigations have shown the extent to which Boeing tried to cover up safety concerns with the plane.
Yet here’s Boeing, publicly sharing safety concerns about Airbus’ newest plane, which it can’t compete with.
Personally I think Boeing’s feedback is ironic and not with the purest of intentions, but still fair, since ultimately all safety concerns should be addressed.
Should Boeing really be talking after the 737 MAX fiasco?
Boeing has raised concerns about the fuel tank design of Airbus’ new A321XLR aircraft, which is due to enter service in 2023. There’s no doubt a bit of irony to Boeing raising safety concerns about an Airbus aircraft after the 737 MAX fiasco, but hey, it’s probably all for the better in the end.
What do you make of Boeing’s concerns with the Airbus A321XLR?