What a major letdown this illustration was! I fully admit that I haven’t been keeping up with all the latest developments on the Airbus A320 series of aircraft, but I had a pretty strong assumption that the A321neo LR (Long Range) was going to look significantly different than the run-of-the-mill A321neo. Maybe a larger wing with redesigned winglets? A taller vertical stabilizer? Perhaps some changes to the engine cowlings? Nope, nope, and nope.
As far as I can tell (based on all the pics of pre-production A321neo LR’s I’ve seen on the internet), there are only a few very minor visual differences over a standard non-LR version:
- Boarding doors are reduced to three (from four on the standard A321). It’s the second one (just ahead of the wing) that has been eliminated.
- Two small over-wing emergency exits have been added, though there is an option to eliminate one.
- The second-most rear boarding door has been moved back slightly (by four frames).
- A black “bandit mask” has been added to the cockpit windows, similar in design to the A350 and A330neo. From a distance, I think this looks pretty cool and fits well with the smaller proportions of the A321. However, when you look at it up close you can see that the shape of the bandit mask doesn’t match very well with the shape of the windows and it looks nothing short of awkward (and like a total afterthought). It works well on the A350 and A330neo since the windows match the outline of the mask perfectly, but I’m not so sure it’s appropriate here with the square windows. I get why Airbus is doing it (it’s a design language / corporate branding thing) but it looks totally forced in this scenario.
The problem with creating templates for aircraft that aren’t even in production yet is the fact that there are many unknowns that won’t likely be answered until they crank up the production line and start spitting these things out. Part of me thinks that a black bandit mask won’t make it to full production, because really – it just doesn’t fit the shape of the windows at all.
Perhaps (just maybe?) the cockpit windows are going to be completely redesigned similar to the way that the A330neo windows were? I wouldn’t think it’s very likely at this point, with production starting very soon and it seems as if it’s a major structural change that would have been seen in testing years ago.
Another question I had while creating this template was about the engines. As deep as I dug through the Interwebs, I couldn’t confirm whether or not that the Pratt & Whitney engines are going to be an option or not. All of the pictures that I’ve seen of preproduction aircraft (and concept illustrations) seem to imply that the CFM LEAP 1A engines are the only choice, and I found no mention of Pratt & Whitney on the Airbus website – or anywhere else for that matter. I guess I’m just going to have to wait and see, and if a Pratt & Whitney powered A321neo LR ever comes into existence, I’ll be sure to illustrate a version of that one too. But for now, I’m just going to skip it.
Anyway, I can’t help but to feel somewhat unsatisfied at the moment, because I was really looking forward to digging into my existing A321neo template and making some pretty big and significant changes to create this long range version. Moving a few windows and doors doesn’t satisfy my creativity at all – especially combined with the fact that the bandit mask looks totally out of place surrounding those square windows and the designer in me wants to redesign that very (very) badly. Hey Airbus – give me a call sometime and I’ll help you figure out how to fit those A350 and A330neo-style cockpit windows onto this thing!
Speaking of challenges, I’m quite looking forward to my next template. I’m going to give the RJ85 / BAe146 a crack since it’s one of my most requested aircraft types at the moment, and I can’t wait to dive head first into that one. Please note that there will be a slight delay though, as I have some travel coming up next week and therefore I won’t be able to finish it for at least another two weeks (maybe longer) – but it is coming!