Airbus has apparently been struggling with a gap in the predicted range of the aircraft in a recent development involving the much-awaited A321XLR. In order to obtain certification for the new long-range, single-aisle aircraft, agreements about the necessary design safeguards were established with European regulators. This adjustment is the result of those agreements.
Despite being creative, this design generated questions from regulators due to worries about potential fire dangers and potential difficulties during an emergency evacuation. Unintended weight consequences resulted from the necessary modifications, which also included strengthening the structural elements and adding a specific protective liner to the fuel tank.
In response to a proposal for a major modification in the type design of a big aircraft, the A321XLR, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued an important consultation document in December 2022. This aircraft included a one-of-a-kind design element, an RCT (Rear Centre Tank) located beneath the cabin floor, which necessitated additional safety concerns not typically encountered in regular aircraft design practices.
To meet these specific issues while maintaining the highest safety standards, EASA proposed the establishment of special circumstances (SCs). These would impose severe safety procedures to offset the risks associated with the unusual RCT design. By enforcing these, EASA hoped to ensure that the A321XLR’s occupants are adequately protected in the event of an external fire, fuel vapor ignition, or fuel tank explosion. Moreover, the crashworthiness requirements seek to prevent fuel spillage that could potentially lead to hazardous fires in survivable crash scenarios.
According to the report, Initial weight enhancements were anticipated to add 200–300 kilos, but recent industry insights point to a heavier 700–800 kilos. The jet’s maximum range was originally estimated to be 4,700 nautical miles (8,700 km), however it is anticipated that this significant weight increase will reduce it. Industry insiders realistically advise a reduction of about 200 nm (370 km), highlighting its operating range, which is closer to 4,000 nm.
The range of the A321XLR is particularly significant for airlines like New York-based JetBlue, which is anticipated to be among the first to fly the new model. JetBlue intends to create routes in Latin America and increase its presence in Europe with the A321XLR.
Despite these obstacles, Airbus is committed to completing the A321XLR’s certification by the end of the year, with the first aircraft deliveries anticipated in the second quarter of 2024.