The notion of stretching the A320 family to create what’s been dubbed an A322 isn’t an unrealistic prospect. It would require some fettling to get right, for sure, but is something that could be done. However, despite the rumors getting the aviation world all hot under the collar, Airbus has put its foot down, telling media that there is ‘no such thing’.
There is no such thing
With the A321XLR on track for a 2023 launch, the world is wondering what Airbus will do next. The company has regularly released new products for its lineup, starting with the A300 in the 1970s and progressing through to its smallest aircraft to date, the A220.
Within those new products, there have been new variants and engineering. For example, the A330neo launched in 2014 at the Paris Air Show, and at the same forum in 2019, the planemaker unveiled its forthcoming A321XLR.
Given the regularity of product launches, it’s likely Airbus is beavering away in the background on something new or improved to be revealed in the coming years. Plenty of people put their money on an A321 stretch, dubbed the A322.
Indeed, sources speculated that studies were underway into a bigger version of the popular A320 family of jets, effectively allowing Airbus to fill the ‘middle of the market’ niche and offer a suitable replacement for the out-of-production Boeing 757.
Speaking at a media briefing yesterday, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer clarified Airbus’ position on the rumors. He said,
“Regarding the stretch … I wish I had more earlier availability of the existing A321neo, the A321LR and the XLR. I do not feel that there is a need at this particular point to stretch their planning.”
Right now, with a sizeable backlog of orders, Airbus is focussed far more closely on ramping up production of the A320 family of aircraft. Indeed, the planemaker is targeting ambitious growth, to take it to as many as 75 aircraft per month by 2024.
Pressed again on the point later in the conversation, Scherer again reiterated,
“Regarding the 322 I think we answered the question there. There is no such thing.”
While that’s certainly clarified the position right now, does it mean that no such aircraft would be on the cards anytime ever?
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What started the rumors?
The notion of a 322 kicked off when Sue Partridge, leader of the company’s ‘Wing Of Tomorrow’ program, told media that there was a new wing under study. This wing, she said, would be composite, lightweight and affordable, while also being longer and thinner than existing wings.
This would provide additional lift for a narrowbody plane, and due to its increased span, it would require folding wingtips, just like the 777X. Airbus already has its own patents in place for folding wings, so from that perspective, it’s a conceivable concept.
However, at the media briefing, Philippe Mhun, Executive Vice President Programmes & Services for Airbus, said that the studies being done into future wing concepts were not related to the single-aisle product offering. He said,
“We’re very happy with the current wing … What is true is that we, as part of the technologies that we want to further mature, have a ‘Wing Of The Future’ program. But I can tell you that we’re very happy with our combination of current wing and current engine.”
While Airbus is keeping mum on any developments within the A320 family of aircraft, a further stretch is certainly something that could be on the cards for the future. The world is still looking for the perfect NMA, something to replace the workhorse 757, and with Airbus’ talent in commonality and product, it could corner the market with a stretch in the future.