Airbus will assemble the A321XLR no longer just in Hamburg from 2023 but also at other production sites, it says on December 6 in an XLR program update. Until today, the European airframer has always stated that the ultra-long-range version of the A321 will be assembled only in Hamburg Finkenwerder. Airbus A321XLR no longer exclusively assembled in Hamburg.

“For the A321 Family, we have started all the head-of-versions in Hamburg – the real first ones – and it is our intention to build these aircraft also at the other sites”, Michael Menking, head of the A320 Family Programme, is quoted in the program update. The update also says: “While other Airbus FAL locations will eventually be producing A321XLRs to fulfill the type’s impressively large customer order-book, Hamburg has been chosen to ‘pilot’ this new variant into series production.”

That XLR order book has grown to 484 aircraft since the formal launch of the program at the 2019 Paris Airshow. By late October, the type had won 435 orders, says Airbus, but another 49 should be added since the Dubai Airshow, where Air Lease Corporation (ALC), Wizz Air, and JetSMART ordered more XLRs. Airbus will release its November orders and deliveries on December 7. 

Hamburg can’t meet rising backlog alone

With such a backlog, it’s no surprise that Airbus shares the final assembly of the type with other assembly sites. It would be a risk now to concentrate the program just in Hamburg on the so-called FAL-line 2. Without disclosing the other sites, Toulouse is the obvious choice to get the XLR as well. The former A380 assembly hall or Jean-Luc Lagardere center is currently being prepared for the A320neo and A321neo and should be ready by the end of 2022. If that still wouldn’t meet assembly capacity requirements, Airbus could also add Mobile (Alabama) to the XLR capacity.

In its A321XLR update, Airbus also said that the structural assembly of the first test aircraft (MSN11000) has been completed in the final week of November. Pictures show the aircraft is structurally complete except for the CFM LEAP engines. In the coming weeks, the flight test instrumentation will be fitted. After that, the aircraft will enter the paint shop and subsequently be prepared for ground tests and the first flight.

Test program will incudes three XLRs

As reported on AirInsight in September, the test program will include three XLRs. Assembly of aircraft number 2 (MSN11058) and number 3 (MSN11080) will begin soon. Number 2 will have Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofans, while number 3 will get LEAPs again.

At what stage Airbus will start flight-testing the XLR with the new GTF Advantage isn’t clear. P&W unveiled the engine last week and plans to certify it in late 2023, with entry into service in 2024. The Advantage will have one percent better specific fuel consumption but also 1.000 pounds of extra thrust at 34.000 lbs. Pratt & Whitney said last week the extra thrust was following discussions and requests from Airbus and customers to satisfy requirements for the A321LR and XLR.

With its additional 12.900 liters Rear Center Tank just aft of the main gear, the XLR gets a range of 4.700 nautical miles (8.400 kilometers), promising a 30 percent fuel burn advantage over previous-generation aircraft.

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