DALLAS — The longest-range single-aisle aircraft from Airbus, the A321XLR, completed a test flight across Europe for more than 13 hours without stopping for fuel.
On December 13, 2022, the F-WXLR Airbus A321XLR prototype aircraft departed Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (TLS) in France to perform the longest test flight of the type to date.
Airbus conducted the flight as a part of its most recent long-range twin-jet development program, which was formally unveiled at the 2019 Paris Air Show. The program also evaluates flight control system evolutions, among other parameters.
According to Flightradar24.com, the aircraft made a circle flight across Europe in 13 hours and 15 minutes, initially heading in the direction of the UK before turning around and passing through Oslo, Berlin, Prague, Rome, Sicily, and Sardinia before landing back in Toulouse.
The A321 is expected to make it more affordable for airlines to offer longer flights when compared to the operating cost of larger twin-aisle aircraft, which have a maximum range of 4,700 nautical miles (8,700 kilometers).
The jet’s special range is made possible by a permanent Rear Center Tank, which has a fuel capacity of 12,900 liters.
Flight Testing the A321XLR
Philippe Pupin, who leads the flight test engineering team for the A321XLR program, explained back in September the rationale for the flight testing phase:
“In order to become a long-range aircraft, the A321XLR needs to carry more fuel, which means increasing the A321’s maximum take-off weight. In turn, this requires uprated landing gear and braking systems.”
The head of the program continued, “Since we are keeping the engine thrust unchanged, we have made some aerodynamic changes to retain our desired take-off performance. This has driven the physical modifications to the high-lift system – the slats and flaps – as well as reprogramming of the flight control system, all of which needs to be flight-tested and certified.”
In terms of flight hours of testing the -XLR program stands somewhere in between a brand-new aircraft and a derivative. This means Airbus has “to ‘re-test’ virtually everything regarding aircraft design and flight physics,” added Pupin.