The A321-200, dubbed high gross weight version, was launched in March 1995, six years after Airbus launched the A321 programme.
Airbus offers the A321 in two versions, including the basic -100 version and the longer range -200, which features increased weight, engine thrust and fuel capacity.
The Airbus A321 is a minimum change stretch of the more popular A320 model. The major difference between the models can be seen on the stretched fuselage, with forward and rear fuselage plugs totalling 6.93m (22ft 9in) (front plug immediately forward of wing 4.27m/14ft, rear plug directly behind the wing 2.67m/8ft 9in). Other changes include strengthening of the undercarriage to cope with the higher weights, more powerful engines, a simplified and refined fuel system and larger tires for better braking.
The A321 wing is similar to that of the A320 model, but the trailing edge has been modified with double slotted flaps replacing the single slotted devices on the A320. It features an identical flight deck to that on the A319 and A320, and shares the same type rating as the smaller two aircraft.
The basic A321-100 features a reduction in range compared to the A320-200 as extra fuel tankage was not added to the initial design to compensate for the extra weight. To overcome this Airbus launched the longer range, heavier A321-200 development in 1995 which has a full passenger transcontinental US range. This is achieved through higher thrust of the V2533-A5 or CFM56-5B3 engines with the installation of an additional centre tank in the rear of the cargo hold.
There are currently 488 A321-200 aircraft in service with 67 operators. An estimated 248 aircraft are owned with the remaining 240 being leased. The A321-200 average fleet age is 5.19 years.
The A321-200 model market share is split between International Aero Engines and CFM International with IAE leading with 275 aircraft powered by the V2500-A5 engines out of the 488 aircraft fleet in operation. The V2530-A5 engine accounts for 20 aircraft with Kingfisher Airlines, SAS and THY Turkish Airlines. The V2533-A5 engine represents 255 aircraft with 34 operators. Some are on the low maximum take off weight (MTOW) of 176,369 lbs. The majority are equipped with a 196,211 lbs MTOW. The increased MTOW is with 205,029 lbs while the highest version available is the 206,131 lbs MTOW.
CFM International represents 213 aircraft with the CFM56-5B3/P engines with 33 operators. The engine manufacturer offers four models -5B4, -5B1, -5B2 and -5B3 engines with 27k, 30k, 31k, and 33k thrust respectively. Its most popular engine is the -5B3 (205,029 lbs MTOW) with 179 aircraft powered.
ACAS says that the 185-aircraft backlog includes 57 CFM56-powered aircraft and 71 V2500-powered aircraft. No Engine announcement has been made on another 57 aircraft, with ILFC (three aircraft), Nile Air (nine aircraft), TAM Linhas Aereas (nine aircraft), Vietnam Airlines (26 aircraft) and Vietnam Airlines Leasing (10 aircraft).
Airbus averaged about 50 A321 aircraft sales a year between 1996 and 2001, followed by three years of struggle with nine orders in 2002, seven in 2003 and 28 in 2004.
The programme got a boost in 2005 when China Aviation Supplies Import and Export Group and Airbus signed a general terms agreement for the purchase of 150 A320 family aircraft. As a result, Airbus recorded two good years of sales in 2005 and 2006, with 103 and 104 firm orders, respectively.
Over the past three years Airbus has sold 16, 54 and 19 aircraft, respectively. It has delivered 51, 66 and 87 aircraft, respectively. At the end of 2009, its backlog for the type was 163 aircraft, or two years of production at last year's production rates.
According to Flight's ACAS database, 51 aircraft are scheduled for delivery this year and the order book stretches through 2016.
Of the 488 active fleet, 227 A321s, or 46.6% market share, are in operation with European carriers. Another 53 aircraft are scheduled for delivery in Europe through 2012.
Asia and the Pacific Rim is the second region with 153 aircraft, or 31.2% of the total fleet. It also accounts for 138 of the total backlog.
North America accounts for 64 aircraft, or 13.1%, but another 51 aircraft are scheduled for delivery over the next four years.
Africa and the Middle East region accounts for 33 aircraft, or 6.7%, while the South American region has a 11 aircraft fleet, or 2.2% of the total fleet.
CAO recorded about 13 transactions on the second-hand market last year. ILFC placed the five ex-Air Jamaica aircraft last year with Turkish carrier Turkuaz Airlines (three aircraft) and Air Berlin (two aircraft) all on five-year leases.
Other Turkish operators AtlasJet Airlines and Onur Air added more aircraft to their fleets during the year.
Macquarie AirFinance purchased two Airbus A321-200 aircraft with CFM56-5B3/P engines from AerCap. The aircraft were manufactured in 2003 are initially contracted for a 12-year operating lease to MyTravel Airways now Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia.
Easyjet has sold one Airbus A321-200 with V2533-A5 engines to Turkish Airlines last year. The aircraft was delivered to GB Airways in February 2008. This is the third of seven aircraft now sold.
Royal Air Maroc recently mandated Airstream International Group to remarket four Airbus A321-200s with CFM56-5B3/P engines that have been returned from its subsidiary Atlas Blue Airlines. Two aircraft are 2003-vintage, one was built in 2006 and the remaining one in 2007.
British Midland Airways said last year it plans a sale and leaseback transaction of an A321-200 aircraft as it needs additional funding this year.
Current Market Values and Lease Rates
The A321-200 aircraft has had virtually no competition since the 757 production ended. It sits at the end of the single-aisle range market but has also been impacted by a reduction in capacity. EasyJet inherited of seven A321-200s through the acquisition of ex-British Airways franchise carrier GB Airways in 2008 but the aircraft is too large for its operations.
There is a discrepancy in pricing perception between the low weight and the increased gross weight A321-200 models. An additional central tank in retrofit can cost $2 million to achieve the high gross weight version.
Gueric Dechavanne, Collateral Verifications, VP Commercial Aviation Services says; "I have seen some signs of stability in lease rentals during the last quarter of 2009 which may indicate that these have hit bottom. I expect this trend to continue through most of 2010 unless events arise that increase the current level of available aircraft putting some pressure on lease rentals as lessors look for quick short term solutions for their newly available aircraft. I am still of the opinion that we will not see an improvement in lease rentals for the aircraft, as well as many others, until 2011 at the earliest."
According to him, lease rates range from $225,000 to $375,000 per month for the A321-200 models.
International Bureau of Aviation (IBA) says lease rates for early models are between $215,000 and $250,000 and for a new delivery aircraft between $365,000 and $390,000.
Avitas estimated early models to lease between $180,000 and $220,000 a month and new delivery aircraft between $325,000 and $370,000.
Aircraft current market values have come off by an estimated 10% since last summer.
Avitas says a 1997-vintage model has a current market value of $18.7 million.
MBA values the 13-year old aircraft in the region of $16.80 million, while its base value is $21.0 million.
IBA says a 1997-vintage model has a current market value of $23.81 million while a 1998-vintage aircraft is at $24.82 million.
"The model shows a positive outlook though there may still be some downward pressure on current market values which should ease assuming the global economy recovers. Market values are still substantially lower than base values," says IBA.
Collateral Verifications values the same vintages at $22.18 million and $23.98 million, respectively.
Current market value for a 2001-vintage aircraft is $22.90 million for MBA, $24.90 million for Avitas, $26.98 million for Collateral Verifications and $28.99 million for IBA.
For a 2005-vintage aircraft current market value is $31.19 million for MBA, $32.80 million for Avitas, $33.57 million for Collateral Verifications and $35.95 million for IBA.
Current market value for a 2008-vintage aircraft is $40.48 million for Collateral Verifications, $41.19 million for MBA, $41.81 million for IBA and $42.20 million for Avitas.
A new aircraft has a current market value of $44.23 million for Collateral Verifications, $47.92 million for IBA, $52.00 million for MBA and $52.40 million for Avitas.