Airbus test flies 4,000 nm range A321LR
Airbus’ first A321LR (Long Range) made its maiden flight on January 31, 2018. The jet is the newest in Airbus 320neo family and has the longest range of any single-aisle commercial aircraft at 4,000 nautical miles. The A321LR’s main rival, the Boeing 737 MAX 7, can fly 3,850 nm.
The A321LR took off on its maiden flight from Airbus’ industrial facility in Hamburg, Germany, on January 31, 2018, at 11:06 local time commencing its flight test program. The aircraft successfully completed the flight mission in 2 hours and 36 minutes. During the flight, the crew tested flight controls, engines and main systems including flight envelope protections, both at high and low speed.
The aircraft, an MSN7877, is powered by CFM International LEAP-1A engines. It is now set to undergo a nearly 100 hour flight test program, including transatlantic missions, as Airbus seeks A321LR type certification from European and American airworthiness certifying authorities, the EASA and the FAA. Entry into service is expected for Q4 2018.
The A321LR’s interior is based on the A321neo ACF, or Airbus Cabin Flex configuration. Incorporated in ACF’s interior are a new center section and modified passenger door/emergency exit arrangement, allowing for 206 passengers in a two-class layout or up to 240 in single class layout in Airbus’ widest single-aisle fuselage cross-section.
The A321LR version has further options, combining an increased maximum take-off weight of 97 tones and a third additional center fuel tank, extending the range to 4,000 nm (7,400 km).
In a statement released by Airbus, Klaus Roewe, Head of the A320 program, said that the A321LR will allow them to open new routes such as transatlantic flights not accessible with current single-aisle aircraft, and to tap into new long range markets.
Airbus states that incorporating the latest engines, aerodynamic advances, and cabin innovations, the A321neo family also allows a significant reduction in fuel consumption of 20 percent by 2020.
Airbus seeks to retain part of the market where it has been outselling rival Boeing. The European planemaker has been outselling Boeing in the market for large single-aisle jets by a margin of four to one and says the new A321LR will meet demand to replace elderly 757s and some 767s. Boeing, meanwhile, has introduced a larger version of its 737 MAX, and outsold Airbus in 2017 three to one in long-range wide-body jets, Reuters reports.
Boeing agrees that the A321LR flies further but points out that it relies on three, space-absorbing auxiliary fuel tanks, instead of one for the 737 MAX 10 in its longest-range version. In anticipation of a possible launch of a new Boing jet, Airbus is working on further enhancements to the A321 while conducting the first tests of the A321LR, industry sources say.
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