Toulouse - Airbus would be finalizing discussions with airlines to determine the characteristics of a future A321XLR, an extra long-range-version of the A321neo.
The competition is heating up for the Middle of Market (MoM). According to the industry sources, the European manufacturer would be close to finalizing the requirements for a longer range A321neo variant.
Boeing was the first to mention about an NMA (New Midsize or Middle of Market) aircraft to replace the Boeing 757. The manufacturer has been expected to launch the program this year. But the company recently announced that it delayed the go or no-go decision to the next year. If launched, the aircraft that is unofficially dubbed Boeing 797, will enter into service around 2025.
On the other hand, its European rival would be preparing to announce the A321XLR variant at the Paris Air Show in June. According to Reuters news agency, the aircraft is subject to talks with airline operators since last summer. Rumors suggest that Airbus already recorded some orders from several airlines and plans to deliver the first examples in two or three years.
Last month, the president of Air Lease Corp. Steve Udvar-Hazy said that he was spending a lot of time with Airbus officials to ensure that the future single-aisle would be able to conduct at least ten-hour non-stop flights.
Although it is yet to be confirmed, Airbus would be seeking between 200 and 300 order commitments before launching the project.
The Airbus A321XLR will have a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 101 or 103 tons (it is 97 for the LR version), with an enlarged central fuel tank and a reinforced landing gear.
Its range should be around 5000 NM (9260 km), which is enough to connect Central Europe to the east coast of the U.S.
On January 2018, John Leahy, Airbus' former head of commercial aircraft sales, said that he wouldn't think Airbus would launch a new aircraft program for the MoM due to lack of high-tech engines at the moment that are required to power such an aircraft. He estimated 2030 the earliest time to launch a successor to the A320neo family.
But last November, Airbus recruited designers and engineers for its new projects including the A321XLR.
Airbus seems to be one step ahead of Boeing in the race. Because the aircraft manufacturer plans to develop its plane over an existing model in contrast to Boeing. The US aerospace giant plans to develop its NMA from scratch, which is quite a bit time consuming besides its high cost.
Last month, former Airbus COO John Leahy said that it would be more logical for Boeing to work on a 737 MAX successor instead of a completely new aircraft.