Airbus and the European regulatory agency EASA agree in principle on the technical requirements for the Rear Center Tank (RCT) on the A321XLR. The regulator is satisfied that adding a protective liner to the fuselage will protect the tank from foreign object damage in case of penetration of the hull. Airbus and EASA on the same page about the A321XLR Rear Center Tank .
An Airbus spokesperson confirmed to AirInsight that a Thursday report of FlightGlobal is correct. But he adds that the certification phase of the XLR is ongoing, but should be completed by the end of next year.
Airbus was unable to confirm if the FAA is also approving the solutions for the RCT to add protection. In December, the US regulator set specific design requirements for the tank after a public consultation procedure.
This included comments from Boeing, who raised concerns about the RCT configuration. The 12.900-liter tank that is immediately behind the main gear area gives the A321XLR its 4.700 nautical miles/8.700 kilometers range, something no MAX can do.
Boeing said that during the consultation it thought that there could be a risk of fire in case of a gear failure and penetration. Another criticism is that passengers could be exposed to the cold from the tank when they are seated right on top of it.
In an advisory circular of December, the FAA said that it will “require that the lower half of the airplane fuselage, spanning the longitudinal area of the tank, be resistant to fire penetration. “Resistant to fire penetration” will, for this special condition, mean that this area provides fire penetration resistance equivalent to the resistance which would be provided if the fuselage were lined with thermal/acoustic insulation that meets the flame penetration resistance test requirements.”
Airbus says that it complies with this requirement by adding a structural reinforcement and internal liner to the RCT. Philippe Muhn, Executive Vice President for Programmes at Airbus, said in FlightGlobal that the three XLRs used for flight testing will be reconfigured to include the modifications to the tank.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News and until July 1 2023 in a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.