Cover photo courtesy of Reuters/Fabian Bimmer.
About a week ago, I reported on the record-breaking flight of an Airbus A321neo from Reykjavik in Iceland to Los Angeles, possibly the longest flight of an Airbus A321 series aircraft ever. As you might already know, recent technological improvements (such as engines with unprecedented fuel economy compared to before) have finally made their way to narrowbody aircraft, thus giving them significant range improvements over previous generations. Now, many long-haul routes that previously weren't economy feasible due to low market demand can ow be operated using these smaller aircraft.
The Airbus A321neo LR (sometimes referred to as the "A321LR") is a stretched, re-engined version of Airbus' bestselling A320 single-aisle aircraft. This aircraft, capable of carrying 185-200 passengers in a typical 2-class layout (but is also capable of carrying up to 240 passengers in a high-density, single-class layout), is intended to replace aging Boeing 757s, which have been heavily used by U.S. airlines to operate low-demand routes across the Atlantic Ocean. The immense range of the Boeing 757, originally designed as a replacement of the Boeing 727, has seen it gradually transition toward a medium-haul aircraft, with less range and payload than typical widebody aircraft, but considerably better performance compared to typical narrowbody aircraft. The Airbus A321LR has approximately 4,000 nautical miles of range, and slightly less payload compared to the Boeing 757-200, making it an ideal replacement for many airlines. In addition to the A321LR, another variant of the immensely popular A321neo features the "Airbus Cabin Flex" configuration, meaning that the exit door configuration of the aircraft is flexible, can be configured to airlines' needs. For example, a low-cost airline operating the A321neo in an all-economy configuration would opt to activate all available exit doors, while a more premium airline operating the aircraft in a low-density configuration (with lots of premium first/business seats) will opt to deactivate certain exits, such as the overwing exits.
Today, the A321neo LR had its first flight at Hamburg, Germany (XFW). The aircraft, bearing the German registration number D-AVZO, embarked on a roughly 3-hour flight to test out all of the aircraft's systems. To mark the commemorative occasion, D-AVZO was painted in a special Airbus livery featuring the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower, reflecting the aircraft's ability to fly between both cities nonstop.
Because the A321neo has been outselling its American counterpart, the Boeing 737 MAX 9/10 (which doesn't have as much range and payload compared to the A321neo) at a ratio of almost 4 to 1, Boeing is rumored to be working on a "middle-of-market" (MOM) design that would effectively fill in the gap between the 737 MAX 10 and the 787-8, a space in Boeing's product offerings formerly occupied by the 757. This aircraft, referred to some as the "797," would contain roughly 200-230 seats in a typical configuration (with a maximum capacity of 270 seats), and would feature a twin-aisle fuselage. However, this aircraft is not likely to enter service until 2025; by then, hundreds of Airbus A321neos would be flying.