DALLAS – Today in Aviation, the A321 prototype, F-WWIA, took to the skies for the first time in 1993 from Airbus’ Hamburg Finkenwerder (XFW) plant.
Under the command of test pilot Karl-Eugen Nagel, the jet carried nine tonnes of test equipment to monitor how the airliner performed throughout the sortie.
Four hours and 37 minutes later, after cruising over northern Germany and the North Sea, the jet touched down back at XFW.
The largest member of the A320 family, the A321 is 6.94m (22 ft 9 in) longer than the A320. This allows the type to carry up to 224 passengers in a single-class configuration. It has a modified wing that is around four square meters bigger than its counterpart.
The A321 was launched on November 24, 1988, shortly after the A320 had entered service with Air France. Lufthansa (LH) and Alitalia (AZ) became the launch customers of the type, initially ordering 20 and 40, respectively. The type would enter service with LH first in January 1994.
F-WWIA was powered by the International Aero Engine (IAE) V2500. The CFM International CFM56-5B engines powered the second prototype.
In December 2010, Airbus announced the next generation of the A320 family, the ‘neo’ or ‘new engine option.’ This included the A321neo, which took to the air for the first time on February 9, 2016. Since then, the European plane-maker has also unveiled the game-changing A321 Long-Range (LR) and Extra Long-Range (XLR).
These variants have opened the A321 up to a range of new destinations. It has also positioned the type as a viable replacement to the venerable Boeing 757.
Since June 2015, Airbus and ST Aerospace have offered a passenger-to-freighter conversion for the A321. Airbus delivered the maiden example to launch customer Qantas (QF) in October 2020.
Featured image: F-WWIA departing from XFW on its maiden flight. Photo: Airbus