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How to fly the Airbus A321

The Airbus A321 is a stretched version of Airbus’ best-selling short- and medium-range jetliner, the A320. The A321 has slightly increased wing area, stronger landing gear with larger tires, and engines with increased thrust.

The A320 program was started in the early 1980s with the intention of supplanting what was then the most popular medium-range jetliner, the Boeing 727. By the time the A321 entered service in 1988, its avant-garde avionics—”glass cockpit” instrumentation, the first digital fly-by-wire control system used in an airliner, and sidestick controllers—put it a generation ahead of many others.

In less than 20 years Airbus has delivered more than 2,500 A320 Family aircraft; more than 300 of them are A321s, capable of carrying up to 220 passengers, though the typical two-class configuration seats 186—practically identical to the standard passenger load of the 737-800.

Important: These instructions are intended for use with Flight Simulator only and are no substitute for using the actual aircraft manual for real-world flight.
Note: As with all of the Flight Simulator aircraft, the V-speeds and checklists are located on the Kneeboard. To access the Kneeboard while flying, press SHIFT+F10, or on the Aircraft menu, click Kneeboard.

Note: All speeds given in Flight Notes are indicated airspeeds. If you’re using these speeds as reference, be sure that you select “Display Indicated Airspeed” in the Realism Settings dialog box. Speeds listed in the specifications table are shown as true airspeeds.


Cruise Speed
Mach 0.80 (447 knots/530 mph) 828 km/h

Two 30,000 lb thrust CFM56-5B3 high-bypass turbofans

Maximum Range
2,454 nm 4,352 km

Service Ceiling
41,000 feet 12,497 meters

Fuel Capacity
6,260 U.S. Gallons 23,700 liters

Empty Weight
105,906 pounds 48,038 kilograms

Maximum Gross Weight
205,000 pounds 92,986 kilograms

146 feet 44.51 meters

111 feet, 10 inches 34.13 meters

38 feet, 7 inches 11.76 meters

Required Runway Length
Takeoff: 7,500 feet (2,286 meters), flaps 5

Landing: 5,150 feet (1,570 meters), flaps 30

The length required for both takeoff and landing is a result of a number of factors, such as aircraft weight, altitude, headwind, use of flaps, and ambient temperature. The figures here are conservative and assume:
Weight: 205,000 pounds (93,181 kilograms)
Altitude: sea level
Wind: no headwind
Temperature: 15°C

Lower weights and temperatures will result in better performance, as will having a headwind component. Higher altitudes and temperatures will degrade performance.

Runway: hard surface

Engine Startup
The engines are running by default when you begin a flight. If you shut the engines down, it is possible to initiate an auto-startup sequence by pressing CTRL+E on your keyboard.

Idle thrust is adequate for taxiing under most conditions, but you’ll need a slightly higher thrust setting to get the aircraft rolling. Allow time for a response after each thrust change before changing the thrust setting again.
The A321 has a ground speed indication on the HSI. Normal straight taxi speed should not exceed 30 knots. For turns, 8- to 12- knots indicated airspeed (KIAS) speeds are good for dry surfaces.

In Flight Simulator, rudder pedals (twist the joystick, use the rudder pedals, or press 0 [left] or ENTER [right] on the numeric keypad) are used for directional control during taxiing. Avoid stopping the A321 during turns, as excessive thrust is required to get moving again.

The following table lists recommended maneuvering speeds for various flap settings. The minimum flap-retraction altitude is 400 feet, but 1,000 feet complies with most noise abatement procedures. When extending or retracting the flaps, use the next appropriate flap setting depending on whether you’re slowing down or speeding up.

Flap Position
Flaps Up 235
Flaps 1 215
Flaps 2 170
Flaps 3 195
Flaps 4 190
In adverse weather conditions, taxi with the wing flaps up and then set takeoff flaps during your Before Takeoff checklist procedure. Likewise, retract the flaps as soon as practicable upon landing.

All of the following occurs quite rapidly. Read through the procedure several times before attempting it in the plane so you know what to expect.
Run through the Before Takeoff checklist and set flaps to 5 (press F7, or click the flap lever on the panel).

With the aircraft aligned with the runway centerline, advance the throttles (press F3, or drag the throttle levers) to approximately 40 percent N1. This allows the engines to spool up to a point where uniform acceleration to takeoff thrust will occur on both engines. The exact amount of initial setting is not as important as setting symmetrical thrust.

As the engines stabilize (this occurs quickly), advance the thrust levers to takeoff thrust—less than or equal to 93 percent N1. Final takeoff thrust should be set by the time the aircraft reaches 60 KIAS. Directional control is maintained by use of the rudder pedals (twist the joystick, use the rudder pedals, or press 0 [left] or ENTER [right] on the numeric keypad).

Below about 80 KIAS, the momentum developed by the moving aircraft is not sufficient to cause difficulty in stopping the aircraft on the runway.

V1, approximately 150 KIAS, is decision speed. Above this speed, it may not be possible to stop the aircraft on the runway in case of a rejected takeoff (RTO).

At Vr, approximately 160 KIAS, smoothly pull the stick (or yoke) back to raise the nose to 10 degrees above the horizon. Hold this pitch attitude and be careful not to over-rotate (doing so before liftoff could cause a tail strike).

At V2, approximately 160 KIAS, the aircraft has reached its takeoff safety speed. This is the minimum safe flying speed if an engine fails. Hold this speed until you get a positive rate of climb.

As soon as the aircraft is showing a positive rate of climb on liftoff (both vertical speed and altitude are increasing), retract the landing gear (press G, or drag the landing gear lever).

At 1,000 ft (305 m), reduce flaps to 1 (press F6, or drag the flaps lever). Continue accelerating to 200 KIAS, at which point you may go to flaps up (press F6 again).

As you retract the flaps, set climb power of approximately 42 percent N1 (press F2, use the throttle control on your joystick, or drag the thrust levers). Maintain 6- or 7-degrees nose-up pitch attitude to climb at 250 kts until reaching 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and then maintain 280 KIAS to your cruising altitude.

Cruise altitude is normally determined by winds, weather, and other factors. You might want to use these factors in your flight planning if you have created weather systems along your route. Optimum altitude is the altitude that gives the best fuel economy for a given configuration and gross weight. A complete discussion about choosing altitudes is beyond the scope of this section.

When climbing or descending, take 10 percent of your rate of climb or descent and use that number as your target for the transition. For example, if you’re climbing at 1500 fpm, start the transition 150 feet below the target altitude.

You’ll find it’s much easier to operate the Airbus A321 in climb, cruise, and descent if you use the autopilot. The autopilot can hold the altitude, speed, heading, or navaid course you specify. For more information on using the autopilot, see Using an Autopilot.

Normal cruise speed is Mach 0.80. You can set .80 in the autopilot speed hold window (click the Mach button first)and engage the Speed Hold button. Set the ATHR (click the switch to engage the autothrottles), and the autothrottles will set power at the proper percent to maintain this cruise speed. The changeover from indicated airspeed to Mach number typically occurs as you climb to altitudes of 20,000 to 30,000 feet (6,000 to 9,000 meters).

Remember that your true airspeed is actually much higher in the thin, cold air. You’ll have to experiment with power settings to find the setting that maintains the cruise speed you want at the altitude you choose.

A good descent profile includes knowing where to start down from cruise altitude and planning ahead for the approach. Normal descent is done with idle thrust and clean configuration (no speed brakes). A good rule for determining when to start your descent is the 3-to-1 rule (three miles distance per thousand feet in altitude). Take your altitude in feet, drop the last three zeros, and multiply by 3.

For example, to descend from a cruise altitude of 35,000 feet (10,668 meters) to sea level:
35,000 minus the last three zeros is 35.
35 x 3=105

This means you should begin your descent 105 nautical miles from your destination, maintaining a speed of 250 KIAS (about 45 percent N1) and a descent rate of 1,500 to 2,000 feet per minute, with thrust set at idle. Add two extra miles for every 10 knots of tailwind.

To descend, disengage the autopilot if you turned it on during cruise, or set the airspeed or vertical speed into the autopilot and let it do the flying for you. Reduce power to idle, and lower the nose slightly. Remember not to exceed the regulation speed limit of 250 KIAS below 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Continue this profile down to the beginning of the approach phase of flight.

Deviations from this procedure can result in arriving too high at the destination (requiring circling to descend) or arriving too low and far out (requiring expenditure of extra time and fuel). Plan to have an initial approach fix regardless of whether or not you’re flying an instrument approach.

It takes about 35 seconds and 3 miles (5.5 kilometers) to decelerate from 290 KIAS to 250 KIAS in level flight without speed brakes. It takes another 35 seconds to slow to 210 KIAS. Plan to arrive at traffic-pattern altitude at the flaps-up maneuvering speed about 12 miles out when landing straight-in, or about eight miles out when entering a downwind approach. A good crosscheck is to be at 10,000 feet AGL (3,048 meters), 30 miles (55.5 kilometers) from the airport at 250 KIAS.


If you’re high coming into the approach, you can use the speed brakes to increase descent. If possible, avoid using the speed brakes to increase descent when wing flaps are extended. Do not use speed brakes below 1,000 feet AGL.

On an instrument approach, you want to be configured for landing and establish approach speed by the final approach fix (where you intercept the glideslope), usually about five miles from touchdown.
Set flaps to 1 (press F7, or drag the flaps indicator or lever) when airspeed is reduced below the minimum flaps-up maneuvering speed. Normally, this would be when entering the downwind leg or at the initial approach fix, so you should be at the desired airspeed by this point. You can then continue adding flaps as you get down to the speed limits for each setting.

Flaps 40 is the setting for normal landings. At flaps 40, which is used for short runways, the aircraft settles rapidly once you chop the power.

Intercept the glideslope from below, and extend the landing gear (press G, or drag the landing gear lever) when the glideslope needle is less than or equal to one dot high.
The proper final approach speed varies with weight, but a good target at typical operating weight is 135 to 140 KIAS.

With landing gear down and flaps at 40 degrees, set the power to maintain 140. This configuration should hold airspeed with a good descent angle toward the runway. Use small power adjustments and pitch changes to stay on the glidepath. You’re looking for a descent rate of about 700 fpm.
Prior to landing, make sure the speed brake handle is in the ARM position.


Select a point about 1,000 feet (305 meters) past the runway threshold, and aim for it. Adjust your pitch so that the point remains stationary in your view out the windscreen.

As the threshold goes out of sight beneath you, shift the visual sighting point to about ¾ down the runway. When the aircraft’s main wheels are about 15 feet (4.5 meters) above the runway, initiate a flare by raising the nose about 3 degrees. Move the thrust levers to idle, and fly the airplane onto the runway.

To assure adequate aft fuselage clearance on landing, fly the airplane onto the runway at the desired touchdown point. DO NOT hold the airplane off the runway for a soft landing.
When the main gear touch, apply the brakes smoothly (press the PERIOD key, or press Button 1—typically the trigger—on the joystick).

If you armed the spoilers, they will deploy automatically. If not, move the brake lever into the UP position now. Add reverse thrust (press F2, or drag the thrust levers into reverse). Make sure you come out of reverse thrust when airspeed drops below 60 knots.

Once you’re clear of the runway and as you taxi to the terminal, retract the flaps (press F5, or drag the flaps lever) and lower the spoilers (press the SLASH [ / ], or click the brake lever).

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