Launched at the Paris Air Show last June, the A321XLR has been a wildly popular aircraft even though we are still years before the first delivery. One key selling point for any aircraft is a low transition cost. This entails training and re-training of pilots, maintenance personnel, and flight attendants. Well, according to Aerotime, Airbus has confirmed that training for this aircraft will be low for those already familiar with the A320 family of jets.
The value of a common type rating
Depending on the size of an airline’s fleet and the type of transition, the cost of introducing a new aircraft can be sizeable. When asked if a Boeing 777 pilot could quickly transition to flying an Airbus A350, an unverified source said that It would require “a full transition course with 40 hours simulator time”. Multiply that by the number of pilots in an airline’s fleet and the costs add up.
That’s why a Common Type Rating is such a big selling point for airlines. If they already own and operate aircraft with a Common Type Rating shared by the new, incoming model, the transition is easier.
As an example, the Airbus A330 and A350 XWB have different Type Certificates. However, according to Airbus, their handling characteristics are so similar that they “have been granted a Common Type Rating from the airworthiness authorities”. In fact, to transition from an A330 to an A350, pilots need only use laptop-based systems and ground-based trainers, “eliminating the mandatory need for expensive full-flight simulators and a full type rating check ride”.
The A321XLR’s commonality
AeroTime has learned from Airbus that pilots who are already certified to fly Airbus A320 family aircraft (anything ranging from the A318 to A321) need only go through a short online Familiarization briefing course. According to Airbus, the course should take no longer than two hours.
As for maintenance personnel, the transition will be smooth as well. In fact, if they are certified to work on the A320 family, then they will be able to work on the A321XLR as well. However, there are obviously new components in the A321XLR that they would need to familiarize themselves with. For example, the aircraft’s center structural tank, among other things. Therefore, Airbus says that they still need to “follow the procedures set out in the Aircraft Maintenance Manual specific to the A321XLR”.
Things are a little more variable for flight attendants, as the interior layout and configuration depend on the airline and its choices.
Airbus is doing what Boeing attempted to do with the Boeing 737 MAX: roll out an aircraft that shares so much commonality with its predecessors, that airlines will save big on transition costs. In fact, 737 pilots were only supposed to need about an hour’s worth of time on a tablet to transition to the MAX. Now, it appears Boeing will recommend time in a simulator, leaving airlines scrambling to get simulator time for their pilots.
Confirmation of low transition costs is fantastic news for airlines – especially those that are already heavily committed. In fact, groups like American Airlines and Indigo Partners placed large orders of 50. If Airbus can stick to its schedule, we are still three years away from the first delivery in 2023. Hopefully, everything will go according to plan.
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