Airbus was able to announce in mid-January that it has officially launched its A321neo with a 97-t maximum takeoff weight, having secured the first commitment from Air Lease Corporation (ALC). The Los Angeles-based lessor signed a Memorandum of Understanding for 30 more A321neo, upsizing its commitments at the 2014 Farnborough Airshow from 60 to 90 and becoming the launch customer for Airbus’ increased range option.
The A321neo 97t will have, with 4000 nmi, the longest range of any single aisle airliner “available today and tomorrow,” claims Airbus, making it suited to transatlantic routes. It will allow airlines to tap into new long-haul markets that were not previously accessible with current single aisle aircraft.
“The longer haul single aisle market is a lucrative one that the A321neo will now dominate, thanks to the aircraft’s comfort, economics and range,” claimed John Leahy, Airbus Chief Operating Officer, Customers. “This new version of the A321neo is a high revenue-generating aircraft which will open up many new opportunities for our customers.”
The A321 97t variant builds on the continued innovations brought to the A320 Family with what the company refers to as the Airbus Cabin-Flex, which offers passengers “plenty of comfort while providing flexibility and profit optimization to airlines.” Airbus increased seating capacity for the A321neo with optimized use of cabin space, increased exit limits, and a new cabin door configuration. The Cabin-Flex option will increase the aircraft’s maximum certified capacity to 240 seats, while still accommodating Airbus’ standard of at least 18-inch wide seats.
An additional fuel tank in the forward underfloor hold of the aircraft, as well as minor improvements on the wing and fuselage, will enable the A321neo 97t to fly 206 passengers in a two-class layout. First deliveries will have started by 2019.
Besides cabin optimization, among the enhancements incorporated on A320neo Family jetliners—which comprise the A319neo, A320neo, and A321neo—are two next-generation powerplant choices (Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower PW1100G-JM and the CFM International LEAP-1A) and the incorporation of Sharklets wingtip devices.
These improvements result in 20% fuel savings per seat compared with current engine option aircraft, along with 2 ton more payload, up to 500 nmi additional range, lower operating costs, and reductions in engine noise and emissions.
The NEO flight test and certification program was kicked off with the A320neo’s first flight, performed from Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in September 2014. This campaign is to include some 3000 flight hours across eight aircraft—comprised of two A320neos, one A321neo, and one A319neo for each of the two engine types.
In its first flight, the A320neo was powered by Pratt & Whitney’s engine, with a five-member crew of Airbus flight test pilots and engineers.
The flight of approximately two-and-a-half-hours—which flew over Southern France before landing back in Toulouse—was the start of the A320neo flight test program to pave the way for this aircraft type’s planned service entry with Qatar Airways in the fourth quarter of 2015.
On the initial mission, the flight test team performed checks of the A320neo’s engines, fuel pumps, hydraulics, electrical systems, and landing gear, as well as beginning the process of opening the full flight envelope, which enables further performance, handling, and systems evaluations.
The A321 has a stretched fuselage with an overall length of 44.51 m. The A321 typically accommodates 185 passengers in a two-class configuration (16 in first class and 169 in economy), while offering high-density seating for charter and low-cost operators.
The A320 family’s wide fuselage also offers improved cargo capability for operators. According to Airbus, its four members are the only single-aisle aircraft offering containerized cargo, with the A321 capable of carrying up to 10 standard LD3-46W containers in the lower deck holds—enabling interlining without special ground handling equipment.