May 26, 2024

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Extra tank: US discusses requirements for Airbus A321 XLR

Extra tank: US discusses requirements for Airbus A321 XLR

Aviation authorities from the US and Europe actually agree on the requirements for the A321 XLR’s additional tank. But something else could change at the FAA.

The question is not new. In recent years, Airbus, the European Aviation Authority, ESA, and its American counterpart, the FAA, have discussed the A321 XLR’s rear center tank (RCT for short). It was the tank that gave the aircraft its special range and received orders for around 550 jets.

The sticking point became the question of the hull tank’s fire resistance in the event of an accident. In 2021, Airbus competitor Boeing commented on an ISO document on the A32 XLR and wrote that an external fire could cause the interior of the tank to overheat and explode. Boeing expressed concern that the position of the tank behind the landing gear could pose a number of other hazards, particularly if the jet veered off the runway and the landing gear collapsed. Jesus agreed.

Current regulations are inadequate

By the end of 2022, the FAA has announced that “the lower portion of the aircraft extending over the longitudinal portion of the tank must be fire resistant.” aeroTELEGRAPH Airbus sales manager Christian Scherer asked what has already been done to meet the additional fire risk requirements. “We have slightly changed the design of the A321 XLR’s additional fuel tanks,” Scherer replies.

On May 7, 2024, the FAA and the US Department of Transportation issued a regulatory proposal specifying special requirements for the A321 XLR. Reason: Special construction of new tank in hull. “Current airworthiness regulations do not provide adequate safety standards for the fire protection performance of the fuel tank shell or structure in the event of a ground fire caused by external fuel following an accident,” the document states.

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The tank should stand for five minutes – to discharge

So Airbus has to prove that the A321. It will be considered sufficient if Airbus can demonstrate “that the integrated RCT prevents ignition of fuel tank vapors during exposure to an externally fueled ground fire for at least 5 minutes.”

This is nothing new. The FAA explains that these requirements and the five-minute duration are consistent with the requirements of ESA in Europe – and the final version of these is due before October 24, 2023. The Easa document is very general about such tanks in this sense and the A321 XLR name does not mention fire hazards. Nevertheless, since the launch of ISA, the FAA will now be ready to demand that Airbus.

“Deliver a few flights this year”

European plane maker wants least: US regulatory proposal not yet finalised. It is open for comments until June 21. It can modify its proposition if the authority appears to be right and important – from anyone. This makes scheduling difficult for Airbus.

The manufacturer originally wanted to implement the A321 XLR in the second quarter of 2024, but postponed this to the third quarter. “We are in the final stages of completing the certification and commercialization of the aircraft,” Airbus boss Guillaume Fourie said in mid-February. For example, they are busy “filling out documents”. A slight delay in the start of operations “will not change the delivery date of most aircraft,” Fourie said. “We will deliver a few aircraft this year,” the CEO said in response to a query from aeroTELEGRAPH.

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The A321 XLR has already been found for Iberia and Aer Lingus

The first A321 XLR for Aer Lingus and Iberia has already been spotted at Airbus in Hamburg-Fingenwerder. The aircraft manufacturer did not respond to an inquiry about the current FAA release as of the publication of this article.