Boeing has expressed concern over the design of rival Airbus’ new A321XLR jetliner, saying a new type of fuel tank could pose a fire risk.
The U.S. aviation giant’s intervention is not without precedent in a global system that allows manufacturers to intervene when safety regulations are interpreted in a way that could affect the rest of the industry, Reuters reported.
This comes at a crucial time, as Boeing is emerging from a two-year 737 MAX safety crisis, and Airbus faces its own test of the tightening expected from regulators around the world following the MAX grounding.
In a submission to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Boeing said the architecture of a fuel tank intended to increase the A321XLR’s range “presents many potential hazards.”
The debate revolves around the A321XLR’s main selling point: the increased range of a single-aisle aircraft.
On most aircraft, fuel is carried on the wings and in the center tanks.
To meet the demand for longer routes, Airbus has already added optional additional fuel tanks inside the cargo area of some A321s.
In the case of the A321XLR, Airbus plans to obtain more fuel space by molding a tank directly into the fuselage, meaning its shape would follow the contours of the aircraft and carry more fuel.
The concept caught the attention of EASA, which in January said it would impose special conditions to maintain passenger safety.
“An integral fuselage fuel tank exposed to an external fire, if not adequately protected, may not allow sufficient time for passengers to evacuate the aircraft safely,” it said.
In its comments to EASA, published by Flightglobal, Boeing cited the risks of an aircraft running off the runway or landing gear failure.
“Public consultation is part of an aircraft development program,” an Airbus spokesman said, adding that any issues raised would be addressed in conjunction with regulators.
By Tim Hepher