Airbus’ first A321XLR has entered the final assembly phase in Hamburg. With manufacturer serial number 11000, the aircraft will act as a test and certification aircraft ahead of the type’s expected entry into service with Middle East Airlines in 2023. The first flight of the plane is expected next year.
The Airbus A321XLR was an instant hit when launched at the 2019 Paris Air Show. According to data from ch-aviation.com, Airbus has clocked orders for almost 450 XLR aircraft since its launch. Before the European manufacturer can start delivering these planes, it must first get the type certified, as was the case with the other A321neo family aircraft that came before the XLR.
Entering final assembly
Airbus’s first A321XLR is now entering final assembly in Hamburg. The aircraft has been under construction for quite some time now, with the first center wing box being completed back in April in Nantes, France. Parts of the A321XLR are being built all over Europe.
Of course, the first of any aircraft typically takes slightly longer to build. While Airbus will plan how to make the plane before starting the project, the processes are still yet to become fully established. Airbus wants to build the XLR across its four A320 family final assembly lines, and with this in mind, the company wants teams at all sites to learn from the experience of building the first aircraft.
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Ready to leave FAL Hangar Nine?
The manufacture of the first A321XLR has been taking place in Hangar Nine at the Airbus Hamburg site in Finkenwerder, Germany. According to the planemaker, the aircraft isn’t quite ready to leave the hangar just yer. While most of the aircraft has been built, a few steps remain.
Airbus intends to install a suite of flight test instruments into the aircraft to be used during the aircraft’s test phase. Simple Flying recently got a peek at what such instrumentation looks like on the Boeing 777X in Dubai. Additionally, Airbus still needs to install and test the CFM LEAP engines that will power the jet.
Once the landing gear retraction mechanism has been tested, the aircraft will enter the paint shop to receive the final production touches before being handed over to the flight test team. Once the flight test team takes the plane, they will complete a series of ground checks to check that the aircraft operates as expected before it takes to the skies. The final step will see a first flight take part in 2022.
Once the A321XLR has completed its first flight, it will then go through a certification process with EASA and other significant bodies before the first aircraft is delivered to MEA. American Airlines also expects to take its first A321XLRs in 2023, followed by Frontier in 2024 and United Airlines in 2025.
Are you excited to see the Airbus A321XLR taking shape? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!