Airbus is preparing for final assembly of the first A321neo with the modified fuselage crucial to increasing accommodation on the type.
The 'Airbus Cabin-Flex' version of the A321neo features substantial fuselage configuration changes from the baseline A321 which was introduced to service in 1994.
Virgin America became the first airline to take delivery of the A321neo when it received its first on 19 April. But this version still had the standard exit arrangement with four main doors forward of the wing and four aft.
The A321neo ACF will instead feature up to four overwing exits instead of the pair of main doors immediately ahead of the wing.
Airbus will also reposition another pair of exit doors – the two immediately behind the wing – by shifting them back by four fuselage frames, with an option to deactivate them.
Fuselage section manufacturer Premium Aerotec has recently delivered the initial shell for the modified aircraft to the airframer from its plant at Nordenham in Germany.
Premium Aerotec says it has overhauled construction of "almost the entire fuselage" to produce the structure.
It states that tooling such as the riveting stations needed to be extended to deal with longer skin panels for the aircraft's new section 17.
The company has previously stated that the section 17 shell for the A321 is around 9m in length but that the larger version for the A321neo ACF is around 12m. It says it delivered the shipset for the aircraft on time in June.
“This achievement in design combined with our comprehensive experience in production has made a significant contribution towards ensuring that this aircraft programme is fit for the coming decades," says chairman Thomas Ehm.
Airbus originally designed the A321 to take 220 passengers but has been able to increase the seating to 230 in recent deliveries to Wizz Air.
Modifying the door positions and fitting a more space-efficient interior will enable the A321neo ACF to seat a total of 240 passengers.
Airbus's interior cabin changes include fitting of slimmer seats, installing a redesigned rear galley and lavatory module, and obtaining a new rating for its exit doors.
It claims that the aircraft will be able to offer 10 additional seats and greater range compared with the newly-launched Boeing 737 Max 10.
Source: Cirium Dashboard