Airbus launches long-expected A321XLR with ALC order; lessor also orders A220-300

By Judson Rollins

June 17, 2019, © Leeham News, Paris: Airbus launched its much-awaited A321XLR today with an initial order of 27 airplanes from lessor Air Lease Corp. ALC also ordered another 23 A321neos, which can optionally be taken as A321LRs. This brings ALC’s total Airbus order count to 387, making it Airbus’s third largest lessor.

Airbus also announced that ALC has ordered 50 A220-300s to be delivered between 2021 and 2026. ALC is the largest lessor to date to order the former C-Series aircraft. ALC executive chairman Steven Udvar-Hazy said, “We believe this aircraft will be a wonderful replacement for aging A319s, 737s, Fokker 100, BAe-146s, and other smaller jet aircraft.”

 The order is structured as a letter of intent. ALC chief executive John Plueger said the LoI covers “all commercial business points” but that it will be converted to a firm order once certain terms are firmed on the A220 portion of the order.

Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer declined to discuss catalog pricing for the A321XLR.

Aircraft revisions

The A321XLR has a maximum take-off weight of 101 metric tons (223,000 lbs). The additional weight required modifications to the A321neo’s landing gear and re-optimized trailing-edge flap configuration to preserve the A321neo’s takeoff performance and thrust requirements.

The airplane’s advertised range is 4,700nm, some 15% greater than the A321LR. As evidence of the new airplane’s capabilities. Airbus provided sample routes for the XLR like Madrid-Dubai, Shanghai-Sydney, Houston-Santiago, and Dubai-Bali. Scherer said such range would be possible with a two-class configuration with seat count of “around 200.”

The additional range is offered thanks to a new rear center fuel tank (RCT) on the lower deck. Scherer claimed the XLR’s RCT holds more fuel than four optional Additional Center Tanks (ACTs) while taking the same belly space as two ACTs, which would free up room for baggage and cargo.

Boeing’s NMA

In reference to Boeing’s long-mooted New Midmarket Airplane (NMA), Plueger said, “It should be obvious that part of Airbus’s strategy here is to borderline that potential new aircraft from Boeing, and [A321XLR] does provide a very effective alternate for a lot of the same routes that the NMA would target.” He later clarified in response to a reporter’s question that ALC’s order for the XLR was based on that airplane’s own merits alone and was in no way intended to pressure Boeing to make a decision on the NMA.


22 Comments on “Airbus launches long-expected A321XLR with ALC order; lessor also orders A220-300

  1. Massive increase in range. I think they will do to the A321 what they did to the A330.

    As many have said, Airbus will sell lots and lots, leaving Boeing’s NMA to pick up the crumbs

    Did note the NMA seat count is 200-270. So it is getting smaller. But Boeing are saying they will do the bigger version first. In other words, the 787-3/8. Doesn’t work for me.

    For me, Boeing need an NSA with 180-240 seats by 2027.

    • Agreed, Boeing should aim for the top end of single aisles, incorporating more CFRP where it’s most efficient, probably some slender, longer wings. Of course with full FBW. Even with existing engines, such a new plane should have quite a performance advantage over the A321.

      (No need to wait for the next generation of engines – whenever they are available then can still be adapted, just leave a little room for them to be a bit taller.)

      Then ad one or two smaller variants, with the E195-E2 covering the lower end.

      This might be a good long term strategy, which is why Boeing most probably won’t do it.

      • I agree, make the 787-7 as the natural step up from the A321neo /XLR. Boeing will fine tune the production system with that one and probably try to certify it with only one pilot in the cockpit and the other in Boeing computers in Renton. As the production system is good enough the NSA will come with a new generation engine with a core engine from the next generation bomber as the CFM-56 was built around the B-1 engine core, we will see if it will be a geared fan or UDF.

        • the NGB is using an off the shelf engine. the military is only doing engine development geared at supersonic applications and turboshafts (helicopters) for large subsonic platforms, the civil engines are better and cheaper than a bespoke solution.

          that is not to suggest the Govt isn’t throwing money at GE/Pratt to develop improved core tech that will find its way into civil applications, but whole cores are unlikely.

          • The goverment is pouring money into new fighter engine core engines and full demo engines. For commercial engines the military core engines are of extreme importance and very similar to commercial engines cores. The LP system can be quite different but are not of the same expensive new materials technology. Hence providing China and Russia with A320neo , 737MAX spare engines is strange.

    • Yes it’s getting smaller.200 in 2 class ( i.e. a321xlr) to 270 ( that’s gotta be one class) so 250 2 class -i.e. Exactly a 737-300.
      Yes they will do the latter first as that’s the market they have to protect-767 ( the 757 market just went!).But they can come back later for the next sales cycle as it will be a more flexible aircraft than the XLR.
      The MAX (8 and 10) will soldier on forever till- Perhaps OR engines are ready.

  2. No big bells and whistles, seems AB made it an objective to keep things simple and development cost low. An A322 could potentially see significant changes that will be higher cost, could almost be an NSA,

    Was surprized that they will use the 33Klb engines, maybe something in the works for 35Klb engines from PW and CFM?

    Will the XLR replace the LR in the long run? With projected EIS in 2023 AB doesn’t seem to be in a big rush but the 321NEO backlog appears to be increasing.

    • They can easily put on the 35k engines once certified and increase MTOW a few tons more. I agree an A322 with new wing+wingbox and min 35k engines would be a real 797 competitor, most likely Airbus waits for the 787 spec, price and engine performance.

  3. there has been mention in several other articles of an optional forward ACT in addition to the permanent tank behind the wing. is that required to get 4700nm/200PAX or does that give some additional range/PAX capability?

    4700/200 is a no BS 757-200LR replacement (assuming the payload/range chart matches the presss release) with modern fuel burn economics, what is the timeline for availability/deliveries?

    • 2022.
      And it is supposed to burn 30% less per seat compared to the 757!

    • My understanding is that the three existing belly fuel tanks are replaced with just one in the aft belly. The A321LR will disappear when the A321XLR is introduced. In other buy a A321neo with no belly tank or buy a A321neo with a single belly tank

      The fact that there is a 700nm range increase suggests the A321neo is going on a diet. Specifically a 4 tonne MTOW adding 4 tonnes of fuel doesn’t add up to 700nm, by my calculations, 550-600nm equates to 4 tonnes of fuel given the higher MTOW

      • well, they did say the new 4x capacity belly tank weighs the same as 1 and takes the space of 2 and the LR has 3.. so, increased fuel volume and less weight to hold it…

        • The A320 program manager mentioned that the XLR won’t need a weight reduction program apart from the already existing A320 weight reductions. In other words there is a weight reduction program but its across all A320 not specific to the A321XLR only. Al-Li or more composite ribs?

  4. There has been chatter that P&W will eventually do a PIP giving perhaps another 1.5%.

  5. Current XLR spec is a parts bin special making the most of the current platform with a limited suite of changes with the focus being on range.

    Consequently 101T MTOW and 4,700 NM nominal range means game on.

    Phase 2 of this process is a 110T MTOW SA plane with a new wing and wingbox when the engine makers can support a 37K lb thrust engine.

    Phase 1 = NMA / MoM’ster is in critical.
    Phase 2 = NMA / MoM’ster will need a family funeral.

  6. Boeing is absolutely fearful of cannibalizing 4000+ 737 MAX orders. They start a new NSA before most of these are delivered and they’ll do just that.

  7. B737 vs “NSA” = Pricing coming into play?

    If BA start from scratch — meaning A220 standards plus 7 or 10% further tech improvement — then they can use price to keep the two aircraft apart.

    Or they just refuse to build any further units after a certain date.

  8. Ceo of Airbus What about the Airbus a320neo XLR Will it launch after the Airbus a321neoXLR ?

  9. With more and more orders coming in the the XLR, one wonders if this is the gravestone to the 797/MoM/NMA project.

    Apparently Airbus has managed to make the XLR without any substantial (read expensive) changes. I had expected to see at least a CFRP wingbox, but it looks like just a bit stronger gear and extended flaps do the trick.

    The performance of the XLR looks very close to the MoM but production cost will be half. Development cost 5%.

    I think the Boeing management will be clever enough to come to the same conclusions and simply bury the whole idea, instead focus on a NSA/737 replacement. ASAP.

    • The ‘magic’ of the A321XLR seems to be commonality with the rest of the A320neo series. It makes sense to have say 20% of your A321 fleet XLR. Boeings B757, which ceased production in 2004, is somewhat of a legend since ETOPS made its 30960nm range attractive for intercontinental ,would easily outperform the A321XLR if fitted with nothing but state of the art engines. If winglets and improved trailing edge were evolved to increase MTOW it would surely get to 5500nm-6000nm range. I’m not sure why Boeing felt it couldn’t sustain the program? One problem was that the B757 variants proposed for short range operations didn’t sell. I also suspect the B767/B757 weren’t differentiated enough and one had to go. Unfortunately the B767, despite being a comfortable aircraft to fly probably didn’t attract airlines interested in freight since its pallets weren’t quite big enough or rather it couldn’t accept the pallets of wider aircraft. I suspect that when Airbus upgrades the A320 series it will create a new wing box for a plastic wing it may be tempted to create two wing variants.

  10. The interesting bit about all these comments is that they purely focus on the technical/engineering aspects. Engineers can build you (almost) anything given the time and resources. The real issue here is can BA build the NMA/MoM in such a way that it allows them to sell the plane at the price that airlines are looking for – was it less than $100m?

  11. I feel a little sad for Boeing but you have to remember that the B777 and B787 absolutely buried the A380 in sales and left billions in investor losses (and because some investors are regional governments there may be a trade war) and ultimately lead to the closure of the A380 program. Boeing miscalculated on the B737 (repeatedly caught napping) and Airbus on the A380. It hurts.

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