MIAMI – Airbus is nearing completion of the structural assembly of the first A321XLR as it prepares to begin flight testing next year for a 2023 entry-into-service.
The long-range twinjet was built at the Hamburg Finkenwerder facility and carries the serial number MSN11000. According to Airbus, the fuselage, empennage, and wings have all been mated, and the landing gear has been installed.
By November, the principal sections had been shipped from several Airbus supplier plants to the final assembly line, known as FAL Line 2, which is located inside the Hangar 9 facility.
Two further flight-test planes, MSN11958 and MSN11080, are being built at Finkenwerder, but A321XLRs will be produced on other Airbus assembly lines in the end. The aft and forward fuselage sections, as well as the structures containing the rear center tank that gives the XLR its range, were mated at Hamburg’s Station 41.
Premium Aerotec supplied the tank, which has a capacity of 12,900 liters of fuel. The XLR, which will have a 4,700nm range, will also have a larger waste-water tank.
Fuselage and Engines
The fuselage was then craned to Station 40, where the wings and landing gear were attached, before being carried to Station 35 for the vertical fin and horizontal stabilizer to be installed. Other components were installed as well, including changes to the gasoline system that connects to the rear center tank.
The aircraft was moved to Station 25 for pressurization inspections, interior fitting, avionics, and another system testing after undergoing hydraulic power-on. Installation of cabin furnishings, including seats for flight-test crew, will be the final stage on the final assembly line.
The CFM International Leap-1A engines, as well as the entire set of flight-test instrumentation, are still being installed on MSN11000. It will next be painted and subjected to additional inspections, including landing gear retraction, before being sent to Airbus’ flight-test division.
Comments from Airbus
A320-family program head Michael Menking said, “It is important for sure that all the teams learn from the experience in Hamburg so we can bring this knowledge to the other facilities.”
Gerd Weber, head of A320-family value-stream management says, “This test aircraft has a partial cabin installed to leave space for all the required flight-test equipment. There is a lot of documentation work to be done, especially for flight-test installation, which is very different from our serial process. So this requires a special focus by all the teams in closing the documentation and dealing with any discrepancies.”
Weber added that, in terms of final assembly, there was “not a big variation” compared with the production of other A321 models. “The major differences in the XLR are seen in the [pre-final assembly stage], at the section assembly level, where the rear centre tank is installed, for example.”
Featured image: Airbus’s first A321XLR, MSN11000. Photo: Airbus