Airbus introduced the A321XLR at the Paris Air Show 2019, and since then has garnered over 500 orders for their new narrow-body long-range leader, which, when certified, will be able to fly 4700 nautical miles, and fly from anywhere in India to anywhere in Europe. Airbus had joined up the first aircraft and today started the test flight programme for certification. With the new aircraft, the key modification is the Rear Centre Tank, which has been added to the aircraft to carry additional fuel, which powers the additional range of the aircraft. EASA, the European aviation and aerospace regulator, however has expressed concerns about the RCT and the aircraft catching fire in case of a belly landing.
The maiden flight of the first of the three A321XLR Test Aircraft took place today, from the Finkenwerder facilities of Airbus. The aircraft, registered F-WXLR (MSN 11000), conducted a 4:35-hour long flight, which was the first amongst many such flights. In a media statement, Airbus confirmed success with the first flight.
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.
The XLR flight test programme will be done with three aircraft. MSN11000, which is the first aircraft in test service, has CFM LEAP 1A-engines. MSN11058 will serve as the second test aircraft, and will be fitted with Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-AM engines. MSN11080 will be the third aircraft, which will have an Airspace cabin fitted in. This will most probably be doing the rounds for customer demos, and will make it to airshows etc as well. This aircraft will also have CFM engines. MSN6839, an A321neo, has been used previously to test braking systems of the XLR.
Airbus has started working on the test programme, towards the certification of the A321XLR, which is a highly successful programme if initial sales are to be believed. However, what remains to be seen is the range that comes out of this programme, when the final certification is done, as eventually it is all about how much fuel they will be able to fly with. India’s IndiGo is a major customer of this aircraft, and hence, interest on this part of the world about this new aircraft should be high as well.
What do you think about flying long-haul on a single aisle aircraft?
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