Months and months and months ago, I was chatting to a dispatcher who works at London Heathrow. That person mentioned in conversation that the Airbus A321neo was a bitch to load as it was hard to balance things correctly.
Fast forward to now and reports are coming out that trimming the aircraft is difficult. It’s not of any concern, but it is something that crews have to watch.
Keeping Seats Free To Balance The Airbus A321neo
EASA issued an Airworthiness Directive limiting the centre of gravity envelope on 14 August 2019. It is quite precautionary as it says “This condition, although never encountered during operations, if not corrected, could lead to excessive pitch attitude, possibly resulting in increased flight crew workload.” Therefore, no big deal.
There are examples of the care taken with this in real life. This post on FlyerTalk says that a British Airways pilot announced that the last three rows would have to remain unoccupied. Another person on a different thread reported the Captain said nobody could move to the free seats at the back of the plane, and that it would be monitored.
Blocking seats for weight and balance reasons is nothing new. Ryanair used to routinely block off two rows of seats forward of the emergency exits on their Boeing 737s. They probably heard it could save them a minute percentage in fuel burn!
Airworthiness Directives are issued frequently enough and you never usually hear of them, as the airlines and manufacturers get on with correcting whatever needs to be corrected. All airlines operating the Airbus A321neo are affected.
If you’re flying on an Airbus A321neo and hear your pilot tell you that the last rows are to be kept free, you now know why. It is to ensure the aircraft is correctly trimmed and has everything in balance for your flight.
As you probably know, all cargo and baggage is weighed on all flights. This is because all aeroplanes have to have the right balance of weight in the forward and aft cargo hold. The Airbus A321neo is just a little more tender than others right now. No doubt Airbus will release a software fix and then it will be business as usual.
What do you think of this airworthiness directive? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
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Featured image by Adam Moreira and Air New Zealand Airbus A321neo by Biponacci, both via Wikimedia Commons.
I took a Lufthansa flight on 18.06.2020 (LH 1282). The aircraft was a A321 neo. During boarding, I was surprised (taking the Covid-19 situation into account) that passengers were arranged to board in groups, in a fore-to-aft fashion. I asked one of the flight attendants about my observation. She responded, that it was required, otherwise the aircraft would tilt backwards, which is in line with said directive. I have flown with numerous commercial passenger aircraft types in the past and have never before heard of such an issue. I admit, I thought she was putting me on. But popular myth… Read more »
I heard it from someone I know who is a dispatcher. She mentioned it in conversation that the Airbus A321neo was difficult from a loading perspective due to balance issues. It looks like it’s true, as I can’t imagine any other reason Lufthansa would board from front to back. I certainly can’t think of any reason for it. Thanks for the comment, I’ll be interested to see if this crops up more in the future.
Software fix? Like Boeing’s MCAS? oh-oh.
Hahaha controversial 🙂