Airbus appears to be edging closer to the launch of the A321XLR, with top management continuing to explore options for the development of a longer-range narrowbody variant and one major leasing customer convinced that the airframer will take the plunge.

Speaking in Toulouse on 26 November, Guillaume Faury, president commercial aircraft, said that Airbus will be able to be “more precise” about the programme next year.

“I cannot be specific today for good reasons, but we have not been shy in saying that we want to continue to develop that product [the A321neo], which has a lot of potential.”

While Faury declines to be drawn on how close it is to a programme launch, he says Airbus is “looking at going in the direction” of further improving the A321LR.

Airbus is “going to be getting serious” next year when it can be “more precise”, says Faury.

But Domhnal Slattery, chief executive of lessor Avolon, believes that the airframer will commit to the programme.

Avolon has already held “very preliminary” discussions with Airbus about the potential for the A321XLR but “not in any great product detail”.

Slattery thinks if the manufacturer does proceed, it will choose the simplest option. “If they are going to launch it, and I suspect they will, getting the airplane on to the market and into service as quickly as possible will be top of the agenda.”

A320 family programme manager Klaus Roewe recently indicated that one proposal under consideration is to increase the A321neo’s maximum take-off weight beyond 100t, taking range to around 4,700nm (7,410km).

Minimal changes would be required to achieve that higher weight, he said.

Although seen by some as a competitive response to Boeing’s proposed New Mid-market Airplane, Slattery thinks Airbus is not waiting for its rival’s launch decision. “They will do the XLR anyway because it is the right thing for Airbus to do.”

Source: Cirium Dashboard