I suspect this is the one you’ve all been waiting for. The A321 NEO seems to be all the rage right now and I’ve completely lost track of the number of times that I’ve been asked to create these Illustrations over the past several weeks. I’m not really sure what happened, but all of a sudden everybody seemed to need this template right away and I was starting to feel the pressure to get it done as soon as possible. Was there a big airline order or something that I missed? I’m not really sure what the reason is for the sudden demand, but I’m happy (and a bit relieved) to post these side view templates today and make them available to all.
The images above featured the A321 with Pratt & Whitney engines. Here are the CFM versions:
The story of the Airbus A321 has been quite interesting to me. I remember vividly when it first came out in 1994, because it seemed to be a flop right from the start due to an apparent lack of demand – at least outside of Europe. There were no airlines in the US interested in it other than USAirways, and the only place that it seemed to get any traction at all was with the airlines in Europe needing an aircraft of this size. For medium density intra-European routes, it seemed to be the perfect aircraft that fit the gap between 737/A320 and larger aircraft such as 767 and A330. But here in the US (and the rest of the world), it just didn’t have the performance needed for difficult missions such as flying westbound Transcon US routes into strong headwinds without payload restrictions, and flying out of hot and high airports such as Denver and Salt Lake City. The Boeing 757 was much better suited for the US airline market at that time.
20 years later, and look where we are now. The 757 is long gone, and these new A321 NEO aircraft are selling like hotcakes all over the world. They simply can’t make enough of them! With the new engines and a plethora of other improvements, Airbus has transformed the A321 into what many consider to be the next-generation 757, and I’m willing to bet that the executives at Boeing are squirming in their seats a little trying to figure out how to gain back some of that lost marketshare. Boeing simply doesn’t have an aircraft that can compete with the A321 NEO right now, though the 737-900/ER (and the coming 737 MAX 9 and 10) comes close. This is a very subjective argument I know, and there are some who may disagree with me on this, but the fact of the matter is Airbus caught Boeing asleep at the wheel and took advantage of a gaping hole in the market left behind by the cancellation of the 757.
In Boeing’s defense, they had every reason to cancel the 757 program in 2004. The economy was still recovering from a deep recession at the time, and orders for the aircraft had completely dried up. It was a very dark phase for the airline industry, and the trend most analysts were predicting was that the airlines were going to prefer smaller aircraft and higher frequencies going forward. That’s when they went all-in on the 737 program and started pushing it as the ultimate 757 replacement with new longer-range variants with higher efficiency compared to the older models.
But here we are in 2017, and there are a lot of airlines with older 757s being retired that need to be replaced. Unfortunately for Boeing, Airbus simply has a better product right now with their A321 NEO. In my opinion, this was a big goof on Boeing’s part. US airlines in particular have depended on the 757 as the backbone of their route structures for years, and with the overall economy as strong as it is right now, there is a need again for an aircraft of this size. There are a lot of old and tired 757s out there, and now that they are starting to be retired in mass quantities, it amounts to a heck of a lot of airplanes that need replacing. Unfortunately for them, many of those replacement orders are going to Airbus.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’m pretty darn far from being an airline CEO, but it boggles my mind that Boeing hasn’t been working on a true 757 replacement for at least a few years now. Why they decided to go all in on the 737 (an aircraft that was originally designed in the 1960s) is something I can’t quite comprehend. I get the fact that it probably saved them a lot of money in the short term, but all they were doing was just kicking the can down the road and delaying the inevitable. They’ve done pretty much all they can to the 737 at this point, and if they want to compete with Airbus in the middle of the market (MOM) segment, it’s going to require an all-new aircraft. They need to get busy, but it may be too late.
My apologies for turning this into a history lesson/rant on the middle of the market airline segment, but as I said – this is the topic I find kind of fascinating and it’s been interesting to watch how Airbus and Boeing completely swamped leadership positions in that regard. Airbus has a hit with the A321 NEO on their hands, and we’re going to be seeing a lot of these things flying around for the next 30 to 40 years. Get ready.
My next side view airliner template (coming soon) will be the last one in the series: the A319 NEO. From a visual point of view, it’s my favorite one by far. Stubby bodies with fat engines…what’s not to like about that?!