Industrialization and parts production for the first A321XLR is underway across Airbus sites and its wider supply chain, paving the way for the major component assembly of the first forward fuselage, center and rear fuselage sections and the wings, to begin in 2021. By the start of this year, a large proportion of the engineering design drawings had been released.
“The production of components for the first A321XLR flight-test aircraft is progressing through the sites all across the world, for large and small components as well as systems,” notes Gary O’Donnell, head of the A321XLR program. “In parallel many parts are already being tested and demonstrated – on both the aircraft structure and on the systems side – to validate the functionality of all those first aircraft components.”
While all major sections of the A321XLR contain significant design changes versus the current A321neo/A321LR baseline aircraft, the major component assembly with extensive design and manufacturing differences is the center and aft fuselage. This is especially due to the center and aft fuselage’s totally new integral rear center fuel tank and associated fuel management systems – which is key to the aircraft’s “eXtra Long Range” performance capability, while retaining operational commonality with the baseline A321neo.
Airbus’ own factory in Hamburg, which will host the major component assembly operations for the rear fuselage equipped with the new rear center tank, is preparing the necessary jigs and tooling in a new dedicated pilot production line in “Hangar 260”. This operation is deliberately decoupled from the rest of the A320 line, so that starting from next year this pilot line will enable a gradual ramp-up of the A321XLR’s new rear fuselage – to attain maturity without impacting Hamburg’s existing single-aisle production operations.