A321XLR is a great improvement to an already wildly successful product family, but it brings with it some complications.
Airbus is striving to ensure that introduction of the new A321XLR does not further complicate a production flow which has already been experiencing hitches as a result of previous substantial modifications to the A321neo.
Airbus is facing this difficulty as it seeks to ease production bottlenecks with the A321neo while increasing output to 60 A320-family aircraft per month.
This has been complicated by the development of the reconfigured A321neo fuselage as well as the long-range A321LR version, which requires more complex installations as a result of switches in single-aisle operational deployment away from short-haul routes.
Airbus chief operating officer Michael Schoellhorn tells FlightGlobal that these adaptations effectively amount to 30% more work on the A321neo, all of which has to be aligned with production takt times and other considerations.
Basically, it's a challenge to fit in all this extra work on the same lines making the smaller and less complicated models at the same time as you try to increase the production rate.
Schoellhorn admits the delivery situation for the A321neo is "not going to be stellar this year" but he is confident that the airframer will have a stable operation in 2020.
"Single-aisles were designed in 2D," he says. "You can't go back and redo it all."
But Airbus is using "targeted" and "surgical" techniques through its shift to a digital design, manufacturing and services strategy to address "pain points", he states.
Goodness, is he suggesting technology has moved on since 1988? Say it isn't so!
Integrating the fuel tank and wing trailing edge enhancements into a 2D partially digitized world may be more of a challenge than some presume.
Regardless, the work will get done, but I'm sure there will be some challenges along the way.
Customers wanting too much of your product is a classy problem to have.