The Airbus A321neo Has An Excessive Pitch Problem

Yesterday morning, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) alerted A321neo operators that there is potential for an “excessive pitch” anomaly.  Airbus is introducing a temporary revision to its A321neo flight manuals that would prevent the aircraft from reaching excessive pitch attitudes. “Excessive pitch” is the issue that plagued the 737 MAX and is what led Boeing to install its MCAS on the type.

The A321neo has a range of 7,400km. Photo: BriYYZ Flickr

This revision is the result of analysis of the elevator and aileron computer on the A321neo. Airbus has yet to elaborate on the situation except for stating that “excessive” pitch could occur under certain conditions and “during specific maneuvers.”

FlightGlobal reports that the EASA has ordered A321neo operators to amend their flight manuals accordingly, within 30 days of when the alert was issued. In fact, the order will cover both the CFM International Leap-1A as well as Pratt & Whitney PW1100G versions of the aircraft.

Should you worry?

According to an article by AirInsight, the Airbus with its existing fly-by-wire system being more extensive than those on the 737MAX, can remain in safe operation following the procedure. View from the Wing and other sources are saying that it is still unknown whether a software modification will be needed for the A321neo.

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With the 737 MAX and its fundamental design issues in the aviation industry’s spotlight, it’s a safe bet that Airbus will carry out its due diligence to make sure its aircraft are safe to fly.

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A321neo test-bed on a low gears-up departure from Toulouse. Photo: Wikipedia

A321neo operators

According to Wikipedia, here is a list of some of the notable A321neo operators and the number of aircraft they currently have (at the time of writing this article):

Lastly, Virgin America was the first airline to take delivery of the aircraft type in May of 2017. However, the airline was acquired by Alaska Airlines in 2016 and thus flew its final flight in the Spring of 2018. The A321neos are now flying with Alaska Airlines.

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American Airlines has a total order of 70 Airbus A321neo jets. Photo: American Airlines.

Conclusion

As mentioned above, the aircraft type has been flying since 2017 with its first delivery going to Virgin America (now Alaska Airlines). Therefore, it’s been flying for two years now without a serious incident. We should note, however, that the 737 MAX also entered service in May of 2017. Perhaps, then, it depends on whether you see the glass half-empty or half-full as entry into service was at a similar time.

Of course, Boeing and Airbus aircraft fly quite differently. Therefore, despite the fact that “excessive pitch” is a common problem, the solution may be very different.

Does this news worry you at all? Or does Airbus have this under control? Let us know by leaving a comment!

13 comments
  1. To say that “excessive” pitch could occur under certain conditions and “during specific maneuvers.” could apply to any aircraft. I know from my own flying experience, which is all ‘fly by cable’ that these situations occur. The A320 neo has operated safely, but Airbus will always monitor aircraft behaviour and pilot feedback. If an issue is identified, then the flight control software can be revised. But this is expensive to validate any changes, a detailed analysis is required before it is done. The last thing anybody wants is to introduce a new problem in the process of resolving a possible issue.

  2. This is,a reality and has been for some time. Look at the roller coaster technique for the B737 200. An empty aircraft with aft cofg tends to do that and pilots should be cogniscent of it happening and apply down elevator. It is not a new issue. Almost every pilot on first converting on a jet in a simulator tends to over rotate too fast and quickly learns how to fly a jet after his previous aircraft experience. This is a little like scare mongering or perhaps butt covering. I am more concerned that the stall warning sounds as a false warning and then stays on after conditions of flight are safe or goes off when still in a deep stall. Not good.

  3. I can’t wait to see the pro-Boeing trolls jumping on this one 😉

    However, it’s the flight manual that’s getting modified, not the flight software. Together with the indication that the matter relates to certain “conditions/maneuvers”, and that it is A321-specific, this would indicate that the issue relates to avoiding tailstrike. Long planes (such as the A321, A340-600 and 757) are more susceptible to tailstrike than shorter ones, and the very first A321neo test flight suffered a tailstrike, which delayed the flight test program by a few weeks. This is the 7th time that Airbus have made adjustments to the flight manual since the A321neo was introduced.

    Why is tailstrike so tricky? Because it’s influenced by a whole lot of different factors, particularly crosswind (sudden YAW change can affect pitch, due to angular momentum conservation). It’s generally not an issue during fully automatic flight, but can become an issue during manual flight. The following link is informative in this regard.
    http://www.smartcockpit.com/docs/Avoiding_Tailstrikes_by_Airbus.pdf

    OK, this is now the point where the trolls come out of their caves and start ranting about “Airbus cover-up”. However, tailstrikes affect all plane models and manufacturers…including Boeings:
    http://www.b737.org.uk/tailstrikes.htm

  4. I wouldn’t be worried about travelling on one.

    What is worrying is that over the last few years, we here more and more of “serious” post-certification issues. Have manufacturers and their economic influence become politically influential? One can one hope that these event will make them even more stringent.

  5. **Correction** (Spell checkers!!!!)
    I wouldn’t be worried about travelling on one.

    What is worrying is that over the last few years, we hear more and more of “serious” post-certification issues. Have manufacturers and their economic influence become politically influential? One can one hope that these event will make certification even more stringent.

  6. Simple Flying , your bias against BOEING is just too much! All your articles have one way or the other shown a bias against BOEING! Do not forget BOEING have been manufacturing excellent Airplanes for several decades , if not centuries!

    The safety of Airline Passengers should be paramount in your quest to make Flying safe and interesting. Thus , your bias against BOEING is in contrast to your objective!

    It is important to be neutral in the Global Competition between BOEING and AIRBUS.

    Finally, it is very important to expose and bring to the attention of the World , the shortcomings of AIRBUS !

    Thanks a lot

    1. Biased?
      1. Lion Air – aircraft is safe.
      2. Ethiopian – aircraft is safe
      3. Just software – update, aircraft is safe
      4. CPU 100% – aircraft is safe.

      Excellence, gone by flawed design, hack upon hack to remedy it.

  7. Excessive pitch? Hopefully not like with the Boeing 737 Max series.Good thing the problem has been identified by the European Aviation institution before any accident occurs.
    I would like to know more about how the A 321 aircrafts are designed.
    Do they have the same specifics as the 737 Max Aircrafts?

  8. You’d think these companies would be able to design a decent and safe aircraft by now,its peoples lives they are risking all for abit of extra profit.

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