Friday, January 16, 2015

New Airbus long-range A321 an instant hit with key customer

The guru of aircraft leasing wants 90 of Airbus' newest jet, and that's bad news for Boeing's smallest aircraft line.

Steven Udvar-Házy, chairman and CEO of Air Lease Corp., this week made commitments for 30 more of Airbus' new long-range version of its twin-engine, single-aisle A321, bring his total to 90.

Airbus l launched the new variant on Monday, with Air Lease the launch customer. What the new variant offers to airlines is range, 4,000 nautical miles, at a low cost.

"We are excited to be the first to sign for the new longer-range version of the A321neo," said Udvar-Házy in a statement. "ALC wants a footprint in every promising market segment, including ones that can be opened by this new version of the A321neo."

It was Udvar-Hazy's criticisms that prodded Airbus to upgrade its earlier concept for the A350 into the highly successful aircraft it is today.

What this means is greater strength for Airbus' A321 line, the largest of the three models it puts up against Boeing's three versions of the single-aisle 737.

Single aisle is one category in which Airbus has been doing exceptionally well, now with firm orders for 755 of the A321neo model, compared to Boeing's 217 orders for its 737-9Max, its largest single-aisle, according to the respected pdxlight website.

To be sure, the Airbus plane only offers 400 more miles of range compared to Boeing's 737Max 9, but coupled with its larger passenger capacity, that's significant.

For Boeing the launch of the new Airbus plane is also challenging because it's directly t argeted at Boeing's no-longer-made 757, which was essentially a stretched 737 with bigger wings and more powerful engines.

Boeing's 757, which combined the efficiency of a single-aisle aircraft with enough range to cross the Atlantic Ocean, is still in use and remains popular for flights between the East Coast and Europe.

Airbus claims its new plane has longest range of any single-aisle airliner "available today and tomorrow," able to carry up to 206 passengers in a two-class layout across the Atlantic.

Airbus has accomplished the greater range by giving its new variant more fuel, with an additional fuel tank in the lower hold, giving the aircraft a maximum takeoff weight of 97 tons.

From this comes the new designation of the variant as the A321neo 97t, the same aircraft that also has been referred to by analysts as the A321neoLR (standing for long range).

(Steve Wilhelm - Puget Sound Business Journal)

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