Airbus starts flight test campaign of its A321XLR

Photo credit: Piotr Bozyk/AviationSource

HAMBURG – Airbus’ first A321XLR (Xtra Long Range) has successfully accomplished its first flight. The aircraft with MSN 11000 took off from Hamburg-Finkenwerder Airport for a test flight which lasted four hours and 35 minutes.

The aircraft’s crew consisted of experimental test pilots Thierry Diez and Gabriel Diaz de Villegas Giron, as well as test engineers Frank Hohmeister, Philippe Pupin and Mehdi Zeddoun.

During the flight, the crew tested the aircraft’s flight controls, engines and main systems, including flight envelope protections, both at high and low speed.

This is a major milestone for the A320 Family and its customers worldwide. With the A321XLR coming into service, airlines will be able to offer long-haul comfort on a single aisle aircraft, thanks to its unique Airspace cabin. The A321XLR will open new routes with unbeatable economics and environmental performance. Entry into service is targeted for early 2024

said Philippe Mhun, Airbus EVP Programmes and Services.

The A321XLR is the next evolutionary step in the A320neo single-aisle family of aircraft, meeting market requirements for increased range and payload, creating more value for airlines by enabling economically viable services on longer routes than any comparable aircraft model.

Flight Test campaign aircraft

The A321XLR test fleet will consist of three instrumented Flight Test aircraft, representative of forthcoming production aircraft.
One A321neo prototype aircraft is dedicated to early flight tests. This will maximize maturity and readiness at Entry Into Service (EIS).

FT#1 A321XLR (MSN11000) full Flight Test Aircraft with CFM LEAP-1A engines. First Flight 15th June 2022.

This aircraft start of Flight Test enables validation of design changes that are related to Type Certification. During the Flight Test period, all findings will be addressed and any new requirements from Airworthiness Authorities will be embedded. Many of testing will be activities run in parallel.

FT#2 A321XLR (MSN11058) full Flight Test Aircraft (FTI) with Pratt & Whitney GTF engines. First Flight will be in 2022.

Second aircraft has completed the Final Assembly Phase. Now FT#2 sits within the Working Party where all Flight Test Instrumentation (FTI) is being installed and tested.

FT#3 A321XLR (MSN11080) full cabin Flight Test Aircraft with CFM LEAP-1A engines. First Flight will be in 2022.

The last aircraft has completed the Final Assembly Phase. Full cabin is being completed and limited Flight Test Instrumentation (FTI) is being installed.

A321neo (MSN6839) Flight Test Aircraft with CFM LEAP-1A engines. Used only on early flight tests of some new features.

Hope for regional airports and routes with lower LF

The new aircraft will be specifically tailored for long-haul flights compared to the standard A321neo or even the A321neo LR. The XLR has sufficient range to reach, for example, from Europe to the northeast coast of the USA, one of the most important intercontinental markets for many European carriers.

It can also reach parts of cities in Canada, the Middle East and India from Europe.

The A321XLR will also increase long-haul fleet flexibility for carriers. It gives the airline the ability to fill the aircraft on new routes, especially in these uncertain times due to war and pandemic.

These can also be new destinations in smaller markets or existing long-haul destinations served from smaller airports or having trouble filling a wide-body aircraft with a good load factor (LF).

Narrow-body aircraft for long-haul routes

The new Airbus A321XLR was announced at the Paris Air Show 2019. The aircraft is expected to be greener and save 30 percent fuel per passenger. A321XLR will have 4 tons more maximum take-off weight MTOW (101 tons), so its landing gear is also redesigned.

The aircraft will also have an increased range to 4,700 nautical miles (8797 km) compared to the A321LR’s range (4,000 nautical miles – 7408 km).

In a typical two-class configuration, the aircraft will be able to carry between 180 and 220 passengers, while a three-class configuration will have a maximum of 200 passengers.

To date, Airbus has sold more than 500 A321neo XLR version aircraft to 20 customers. The biggest customer is Indigo which ordered 70 aircraft. Amongst the biggest orders were American Airlines and United Airlines who ordered 50 planes each.

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