The latest model in Europe-based aerospace group Airbus’ single-aisle airliner family, the A321LR, made its maiden flight from Hamburg in Germany on Wednesday. The aircraft is MSN7877 and is a long range version of the A321neo (new engine option), hence the suffix “LR”.
It is powered by CFM International LEAP-1A new generation engines. Like all members of the A320 family, the A321LR contains wing and fuselage components and communications equipment manufactured in South Africa by local companies Aerosud and Cobham South Africa.
The new aircraft will now undertake a flight test programme that will total almost 100 flying hours. This will include flights across the North Atlantic. Type certification, both by the European Aviation Safety Agency and the US Federal Aviation Administration, is expected during the second quarter of this year.
Entry into service is scheduled for the last quarter of this year. The launch customer is the Air Lease Corporation, which will lease its aircraft to airlines. The A321LR has a new door configuration, allowing it to take up to 240 passengers, who will also benefit from the new “Airspace by Airbus” cabin and the widest single-aisle fuselage flying today.
With an increased maximum take-off weight of 97 t and a third additional centre fuel tank, the A321LR has a range of 7 400 km. This means it can fly routes across the North Atlantic. For example, it can fly between New York and Paris (highlighted by the painting of the silhouettes of the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty on both sides of MSN7877’s fuselage). This allows airlines to develop new long range markets, that would not be able to support wide-body airliner operations.
With its new engines, improved aerodynamics and improvements in cabin design, the A321neo offers a 20% cut in fuel burn by 2020. So far, more than 1 900 A321neos (both normal range and LR versions) have been ordered by 50 clients. Currently, the A321neo holds 80% of its market segment.