Airbus’ manufacturing subsidiary Premium AEROTEC in Augsburg, Germany, has commenced production of the first Rear Center Tank (RCT) for the Airbus A321XLR. The RCT, which is unique to the new long-range A321XLR, is a permanently installed high-capacity fuel tank that makes maximum volumetric use of the aircraft’s lower fuselage. The RCT structure, which is integrated in fuselage Sections 15 and 17, is located behind the main landing gear bay and holds up to 12,900L – which is more fuel than several optional Additional Center Tanks (ACTs) combined could hold previously in the A321 family. Moreover, since the RCT takes up less space in the cargo hold, it frees-up underfloor volume for additional cargo and baggage on intercontinental routes of up to 4,700nm.
Airbus commissioned Premium AEROTEC in September 2019 to manufacture the RCT sub-assembly. This phase involves production of the other RCT parts, followed by structural assembly, systems equipping, and testing prior to delivery to Airbus’ major component assembly (MCA) facility in Hamburg, Germany, early next year, where the tank will be integrated into the aircraft’s rear fuselage.
In addition to the dedicated RCT, other key changes for the A321XLR include a modified landing gear for an increased maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 101 metric tonnes, uprated brakes, and an optimized wing trailing-edge flap configuration to preserve the same take-off performance and engine thrust requirements as today’s A321neo. By early 2020, the first long-lead components for the initial A321XLR flight-test aircraft were already in production – including the main landing gear forgings by Safran and the first parts for the center wingbox by Airbus in Nantes.
The A321XLR has been designed to maximize overall commonality with the rest of the A320neo family, while introducing minimal changes needed to give the aircraft an Xtra Long Range with increased revenue payload. To date, 24 customers have ordered a total of more than 450 A321XLRs. Flight-testing is due to start in 2022, and service entry from 2023.