Aircraft

Airbus A321XLR Embarks on Rigorous Route Proving Test Campaign

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Airbus has initiated an extensive series of test flights, known as “route proving,” for its A321XLR, with the aim of demonstrating the aircraft’s readiness for certification, series production, and eventual use by airlines.

The A321XLR, a variant of the A321 Neo with an extended range, commenced its journey from the Airbus factory in Toulouse on a crisp evening of September 13th. With registration number F-WWAB and serial number 11080, this test aircraft is set to be airborne for approximately 100 hours over the course of the next ten days.

During this ambitious test campaign, the A321XLR will undertake approximately 15 flights across a variety of routes. The itinerary includes traversing Europe and even reaching the northernmost tip of Greenland before returning. Airbus Project Manager Jim Fawcett elaborates that this diverse route selection, incorporating varying climates, infrastructure, geographical locations, and runway altitudes, adds a representative dimension to the testing.

Crucially, some of the planned routes mirror those commonly operated by airlines. In one notable leg of the journey, the A321XLR will make transatlantic flights between Europe and a U.S. airport, showcasing its remarkable range of up to 8,700 kilometers, thanks to additional fuel tanks.

The meticulous observation of the aircraft extends to its performance on the ground. Airbus experts in Toulouse will closely monitor the A321XLR throughout the test period, relying on real-time data sent directly from the aircraft for early detection of potential maintenance issues. Ground handling at the airports involved will mimic standard flight operations, with partners dispatching tankers, catering trucks, and waste disposal units to gauge the aircraft’s performance in everyday conditions.

A cabin crew is onboard to simulate actual flight operations. This team hosts around 30 passengers, composed of volunteer Airbus and airline employees. Airbus values their feedback as it seeks to refine the A321XLR based on real-world experiences.

Jim Fawcett emphasizes the ultimate goal of this extensive testing: “If the participants tell us that they see little difference to the A321s currently in use, then we as a company have fulfilled our task.” Originally scheduled for customer service at the end of 2023, the introduction of the A321XLR is now slated for early 2024 due to necessary improvements in the fire protection of its fuel tanks.

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