Airbus claims their new variant of the popular A321 family, the A321LR for ‘long range’, has the longest range of any single-aisle (ie, compact and economical) jetliner. (Take that, Boeing 737 Max, seems to be the subtext of the Airbus announcement.) The new plane recently completed a 4750-mile nautical mile flight, which Airbus claims as a record. The A321LR, in both dimensions and capacity, also represents the latest ‘stretch’ of the versatile A320/A321 single-aisle twinjet.
The A321LR showed its impressive range with a long flight over the ocean from Mahé in the Seychelles islands to Toulouse, France, covering a total distance of 4,750 nautical miles. Airbus says the aircraft is ideally suited to transatlantic routes, allowing airlines to tap into new long-haul markets that were not previously accessible with current single-aisle aircraft. For example, routes covering the 3,965-mile distance from New York to Berlin or even the 4,068 miles from Boston to Warsaw might be possible with the A321LR.
The plane is said to be 27% more efficient than the aging Being 757. Primera Air plans to use the plane in a “low-cost, high density” configuration, on flights such as its planned Paris-Toronto route of 3,752 nautical miles. Norwegian Air is also planning to order the plane for routes from the Washington, DC area to Europe, which might potentially even cover the 4012-mile span from Copenhagen to Baltimore.
According to Airbus, one way the A321LR achieves its long range is by adding a third auxiliary center fuel tank. Set for an introduction later in 2018, the plane can handle up to 240 passengers with what Airbus calls the widest single-aisle fuselage in the sky. The increased fuel and passenger load helps account for its increased maximum take-off weight of 97 tons, compared to 93.5 tons for the current A321.
As for the long-distance ‘record’ for single-aisle jetliners, most likely the record is an informal one, as it’s part of the A321LR’s 100-hour flight test and certification program. That puts it in a different category than the speed record recently set by a Norwegian Air 787 Dreamliner flying across the Atlantic from NY to London Gatwick (a scheduled commercial flight) in just 5 hours, 9 minutes.
Speaking of speed records, the A321LR apparently did not set one, as it made the 4750 nautical mile flight in 11 hours, at about 425 nm per hour. By contrast, cruising speed for the A321 is listed at 515 miles per hour, while maximum speed is 541mph. But the 162 passengers did not complain about the long jaunt, cramped conditions or limited opportunities to stretch their legs in the jet’s single-aisle. That’s because the A321LR “carried 162 human heat-replicating dummy passengers” in addition to its 16-member test crew.
After the flight, test engineer Jim Fawcett said of the A321LR, “It is an excellent aircraft that keeps its promises in terms of flight behavior, passenger comfort and fuel consumption.”
The A321LR test aircraft is shown at Mahé in the Seychelles islands ahead of its record-breaking flight to Toulouse, France, which covered a total distance of 4,750 nautical miles in 11 hours.