Report: Airbus A321XLR Hits Snag, Delayed To 2024

Report: Airbus A321XLR Hits Snag, Delayed To 2024

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Lately Boeing has been having endless issues, between Boeing 787 deliveries and Boeing 777X certification. As reported by Reuters, it looks like Airbus is facing some challenges with its new jet, though for the time being the problem is minor by comparison.

Airbus A321XLR faces fire safety concerns

The A321XLR is Airbus’ newest jet, which was first revealed in 2019. This will be the longest range narrow body plane in the world, as it’s essentially an A321neo with an extra fuel tank. This plane will be a game-changer for airlines, allowing them to operate point-to-point flights that weren’t previously viable, with a range of up to 4,700 nautical miles.

Hundreds of these jets have already been ordered, and deliveries were supposed to start in 2023. Here in the United States, both American and United are relying on these planes to be able to add new long haul service.

With Airbus continuing to make progress with getting the A321XLR into service, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has expressed concerns:

  • The whole reason the A321XLR has extra range is because it has an extra fuel tank in the rear of the fuselage
  • Regulators want Airbus to lessen the fire risk from the extra fuel tank
  • Improvements to fire safety will likely add weight to the plane, which would reduce the range of the jet; after all, the heavier the plane is, the less fuel it can carry, and the less far it can fly

It’s not expected that the impact to range will be too major, though I know many airlines were hoping to use as much of the aircraft’s range as possible, and every little bit helps.

American Airlines has ordered 50 A321XLRs

Airbus A321XLR expected to be delayed to 2024

Officially Airbus A321XLR deliveries were planned starting in 2023, but this latest issue is expected to delay deliveries to 2024. As of now that’s not a huge delay, especially since deliveries were previously rumored to start in late 2023, and are now rumored to start in early 2024.

The issue is that this is far from resolved, and until the jet is certified, there’s no certainty to the timeline. Also keep in mind that it’s not just the EASA that will have to approve the plane, but the plane will also likely feature increased scrutiny from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States.

For example, the Boeing 777X was initially supposed to enter service in 2020, but has now been delayed all the way until 2025. Of course there’s no indication that the A321XLR will face a delay that big, but the point is just that these issues can cause rolling delays.

Interestingly all of this comes as the first A321XLR is rolling out of the painshop.

https://twitter.com/Airbus/status/1521119062637654018

Bottom line

The Airbus A321XLR is an exciting plane for both airlines and consumers, in terms of the new point-to-point routes it opens up. Unfortunately the jet is now facing some delays and range limitations.

Regulators are raising fire safety concerns. Resolving this could increase the weight of the jet, and in turn reduce fuel capacity and range. These changes could take some time, and are likely to delay the first delivery of the A321XLR into 2024.

Here’s to hoping that the plane isn’t delayed much longer than that, especially since aircraft manufacturers are facing increased scrutiny with certification following the 737 MAX issues we saw a few years back.

What do you make of these A321XLR updates?

Conversations (28)
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    1. Watson Gold

      You reap what you sow, AA.

  1. אבי Guest

    The necessary repairs will not only reduce the range but also cause the aircraft to consume more fuel because of the excess weight which means that what Airbus reported on the estimated fuel consumption of this aircraft is no longer true and it will be less economical

  2. Tim Dunn Diamond

    Specifically, the extra fuel tank which holds about 3500 gallons sits right behind the main landing gear which means that there could be 22,000 pounds that need to be completely held in place esp. if there is an aborted takeoff when tanks are full.
    While Boeing has its motivation to interfere, Airbus does need to prove that the aircraft structure can restrain the added tank when it is completely full with no damaging forces...

    Specifically, the extra fuel tank which holds about 3500 gallons sits right behind the main landing gear which means that there could be 22,000 pounds that need to be completely held in place esp. if there is an aborted takeoff when tanks are full.
    While Boeing has its motivation to interfere, Airbus does need to prove that the aircraft structure can restrain the added tank when it is completely full with no damaging forces to any other structures or strengthen the structures around it. I'm glad if the market likes the product but this is a different type of fuel arrangement than on the 757 which also had transatlantic range in part because of much larger wings.
    To Skedguy's comment below, the difference in flight time between a widebody and an A321 across the Atlantic could be between 20-30 minutes. Expect airlines that use them in hub operations depart first to keep connections as short as possible since computer systems show the total elapsed time. A shorter connection will help offset the longer flying time of the A321 over the Atlantic (or to Latin America).

    1. ArnoldB Guest

      Latin America is also over the Atlantic you know

    2. Tim Dunn Diamond

      Depending on what part of the US you are leaving from and what part of Latin America you are going to, it might be. The most East and North in the US your departure is, the more likely you will be over the Atlantic but only if you are going to eastern S. America. Not even MIA to Brazil typically flies over the Atlantic but it does fly over the Caribbean.

  3. Jim Guest

    I find it puzzling, based on the last two decades of observation, as to why aircraft manufacturers don't just add 4-5 years to their original production timelines. I don't think a single new aircraft has been even remotely on time, so why not at least be realistic about it?

  4. Kay Guest

    One note: The XLR replaces the two rear ACTs (auxiliary center tanks) that airlines can spec on any A321neo aircraft with a single tank that is conformal to the fuselage and can hold even more fuel. So its not so much an additional fuel tank as a more deeply integrated fuel tank design that increases capacity.

    The additional weight is also a more fundamental change to the 321 design then what you see with an A321LR. New gear, new structure, etc.

  5. 305 Guest

    They appear to be advertising JFK/EWR-FCO on the paint job. That doesn't sound fun on a narrowbody, even in J

  6. Skedguy Guest

    Everyone loves these airplanes but do you realise you will be travelling on a slower aircraft for longer flights? Max cruise of the 321XLR is mach 0.82 but if it wants to get beyond 3,200 nm it has to slow down to M 0.78. What's a 787 cruise at I hear you ask? M .85 or 1.04 times faster at max cruise and 1.09 times faster at long range cruise. Also you will be sitting over a huge fuel tank which will make the immediate cabin environment ccccccold!

    1. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      Ridiculous.

      No one's going to care (i.e., modify purchase behavior) on a 8-11hr flights, for the 20ish extra minutes that it's going to take in an A32X.

      The CFTs of 787/777/A350s hold far more than RCT on this thing will, and they don't impact cabin temperature. You actually wrote that nonsense with a straight face?

    2. Watson Gold

      The extra 20ish minutes won't matter, but no way in hell I'm spending 8-11 hours on a narrow-body jet, unless they come with some seriously innovative new J seats! (I haven't flow B6's new seats; those might do.)

  7. Steve Diamond

    Makes sense that regulators are going to be more strict going forward on both Boeing and Airbus after the 737 max they dont want to miss something. As for competitors this is just going to further reduce competition as more regulations makes designing a new planed even harder and more expensive so who is going to want to get into that business.

    1. AC Guest

      And the fact the FAA apparently let a bunch of "minor" 787 issue slide. None have caused a crash but there is pressure to fix them and a renewed focus on all airplane defects (as there should be IMHO).

  8. mdande7 Diamond

    It's quite a statement on how messed up Boeing is right now that a fire suppression concerns is minor by comparison!

    1. RAM Guest

      More like an unthought comment than an accurate statement.

      The US bureaucracy is engaged in a 'bottom' covering exercise due to their too cozy relationship with both Airbus and Boeing.

      Just like politicians having 'incestuous' relationships with various lobbying groups and industries - the number of senior staff from the various air certification bodies who end up on massive salaries with either Boeing, Airbus, or one of their major suppliers, is immense.

      Never let self-interest...

      More like an unthought comment than an accurate statement.

      The US bureaucracy is engaged in a 'bottom' covering exercise due to their too cozy relationship with both Airbus and Boeing.

      Just like politicians having 'incestuous' relationships with various lobbying groups and industries - the number of senior staff from the various air certification bodies who end up on massive salaries with either Boeing, Airbus, or one of their major suppliers, is immense.

      Never let self-interest get in the way of clear thinking.

      A very disturbing situation, potentially, is the issue of the degradation of A350 exterior coatings. The similar symbiotic relationship between Airbus and EASA is troubling.

      Now that over 9 separate airlines have reported the same delamination and deterioration in the underlying lightening protection casing (as a result) on the A350s - the 2nd last statement by EASA slipped in, towards the end, the 'risk of a potential for a hull loss incident'.

      Politico speak for losing a plane totally.

      A350s from every year of production through to 2021 have now been reported to have the same issue.

      Boeing discovered, very early on, in the B787 development that there was a serious problem with 'galvanic corrosion' at any junction, intersection or fastener used where one material was carbon fibre and the other was a metal. Where the electric potential was more than a certain level than an electrochemical reaction started - albeit it potentially very minor - it could develop into a 'hull loss' issue.

      The ideal metal, with the least 'difference' was lead. Not the ideal solution for a plane. Next best was titanium - not the best for cost but great for weight, which is what Boeing chose.

      Airbus on the other hand appears to be using Aluminum fasteners - which is correct then means the only way to 'solve the issue' which has been in the public domain since the start of 2021 - is to replace EVERY fastener used in a carbon fibre component.

      In other words, totally dis-assemble every A350.

      Airbus is still to issue any explanation of what is causing this 'delamination' issue which it was first informed (by Qatar non-publicly) in 2019.

      Time will tell.

  9. Mak Guest

    One would almost be left thinking that a duopoly of only two suppliers is bad for aviation generally, and their airline customers in particular. I certainly hope that the Chinese can come up with a widebody competitor soon so that aviation can again advance -- which it basically hasn't done in any material way in 25 years.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      Nonsense.

      What kind of material “advance” are you expecting in this fantastical world of many competitors?

      There’s been two big consumer aviation advances in my lifetime. Jets, wide bodies. Did they happen because there were lots of competitors?

    2. Mantis Guest

      Oh yes, if only the Chinese were more powerful, the world would be such a better place. If they are such great innovators, why have they built their economy on stolen IP?

    3. Venu Guest

      Duopoly may be the problem, but a Chinese company is NOT the solution.

    4. Ty Guest

      Are you insane @Mak? Can you think of the safety implications caused by China’s culture’s endemic corruption, obfuscation, theft of ideas, lying and cover ups? And not to mention China’s total distressed for quality.

      Look at where Boeing found itself through its own greed and incompetence. Anything Chinese could only be worse.

    5. AmericaFirst Guest

      “endemic corruption, obfuscation, theft of ideas, lying and cover ups” same could be said for Boeing and the FAA and the whole 737 max thing. don’t be racist.

    6. Watson Gold

      Ah yes, AmericaFirst. Don't agree with someone? Call them racist!

    7. Sam A Guest

      Look what SpaceX did to the space flight industry… Boeing still can’t get a manned mission into space more than a year after SpaceX.

  10. Roberto Guest

    AA should have ordered some 321LR’s… 2022 & 2023 are going to be brutal without destinations like EDI, MAN, SNN, KEF, & CMN, not to mention potential expansion in South America out of Miami.

    1. roger Guest

      This delay of the 321XLR will further prove AA's grounding of the A330 and 757 was shortsighted and really limit their ability to compete Internationally as travel rebounds and demand increases. Very stupid on the part of their management and further complicated with the 787 Nightmare issues.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

ConcordeBoy Diamond

Ridiculous. No one's going to care (i.e., modify purchase behavior) on a 8-11hr flights, for the 20ish extra minutes that it's going to take in an A32X. The CFTs of 787/777/A350s hold far more than RCT on this thing will, and they don't impact cabin temperature. You actually wrote that nonsense with a straight face?

2
Skedguy Guest

Everyone loves these airplanes but do you realise you will be travelling on a slower aircraft for longer flights? Max cruise of the 321XLR is mach 0.82 but if it wants to get beyond 3,200 nm it has to slow down to M 0.78. What's a 787 cruise at I hear you ask? M .85 or 1.04 times faster at max cruise and 1.09 times faster at long range cruise. Also you will be sitting over a huge fuel tank which will make the immediate cabin environment ccccccold!

2
Mantis Guest

Oh yes, if only the Chinese were more powerful, the world would be such a better place. If they are such great innovators, why have they built their economy on stolen IP?

2
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