As Airbus makes swift progress towards getting its first A321XLR built, the European planemaker is also looking further into the future, considering what airlines will want next and what it might build to meet those future needs. Sources note that the firm is already gauging interest for an A321 stretch, an ‘A322’. What do we know about this aircraft concept so far?
When Airbus first launched the A320 in 1984, few would have guessed just how much the planemaker would do with the aircraft nearly 40 years into the future. To date, Airbus has…
- Created shorter versions in the form of the A318 and A319
- Stretched the A320 into the A321
- Updated the platform and its variants with new, more efficient engines (except for the A318)
- And modified the A321 for long-range operations in the form of the A321LR and A321XLR
Now it looks like Airbus A322 could be on the horizon…
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A final stretch of the A320 family
According to Bloomberg, Airbus is looking to produce an ‘affordable’ composite wing capable of a high production rate. The news comes via Sue Partridge, leader of the company’s “Wing of Tomorrow” Program.
The future wing, Partridge says, will be longer and thinner, thereby improving aerodynamic performance and efficiency. Interestingly, the added span of this new wing will require folding tips, just like the 777X. This will be done so that the aircraft can access existing airport gates. Airbus has patented a number of folding wingtip designs in the past.
Partridge notes that this new wing could be deployed on updated versions of the A320 family. Others note that it could also be part of a further stretch, what many refer to as the A322. Indeed, Bloomberg notes that Airbus has already been “gauging customer interest” in a stretched A321. However, few additional details have been offered up by the planemaker.
What would an A322 look like?
It goes without saying that an Airbus A322 would primarily look like a stretched A321. But is there more to that? Additionally, one has to wonder how much longer the fuselage might be lengthened.
Sash Tusa, an analyst at Agency Partners, tells Bloomberg that this longer A321 might offer as many as four extra rows of seats. With Airbus’ standard 3-3 economy layout on A320 family jets, that would translate to as many as 24 additional seats.
Comparing length, here is how the A320 family members stack up:
- A318: 31.44m (103ft 2in)
- A319: 33.84m (111ft)
- A320: 37.57m (123ft 3in)
- A321: 44.51m (146ft)
Airbus states that the A321 can carry as many as 40 more passengers than the A320, which is just over six rows of additional seating. Therefore, an addition of four rows might see the aircraft’s total length stretched to somewhere just under 50 meters.
Comparing narrowbodies from Boeing, the 737 MAX 10 is just short of the A321 at 43.8m (143 ft 8 in). However, the now out-of-production 757-300 measures 54.4m (178ft 5in), demonstrating just how a modern narrowbody can be stretched. Going further back in time, the longest variants of the Douglas DC-8 stretched 57.1m (187.3ft) long.
So, will Airbus go to such lengths with the A322?
Aside from length, Tusa also sees the aforementioned new composite wing providing more range. Visually, the possibility of folding wingtips would be a significant departure from other A320 family members, setting it apart from all other commercial Airbus jets to date.
Additionally, the use of next-generation engines might necessitate a repositioning of the aircraft’s landing gear.
A322 in the mid-2020s?
Airbus’ wing project is expected to wrap up sometime in 2023. Partridge says that the technology will need to be sharpened after that as it is integrated into Airbus’ product launch. While the timeline will depend on the new jet’s complexity, maybe we’ll see an A322 announcement within the next few years.
What do you think of an A321 stretch? Will boarding times be unbearable with this lengthened narrowbody? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.