It was a major step en route to certification. On the 5th of October an A321XLR test aircraft performed its passenger experience flight in typical airline operating conditions. On board, 200 Airbus employees were among the first to experience the comfort of the A321XLR in simulated real service conditions before its entry into service in 2024.  

On Thursday 5 October, the A321XLR successfully completed its ‘early passenger flight’ demonstration with 167 employees acting as passengers. There were also 22 experts and 11 Airbus Flight Test and cabin crew members on board. 

Test aircraft MSN11080 took off from Toulouse at 11:14 am and landed at 5:26 pm, after a six hour 12 minutes flight around Europe. The A321XLR was powered with 30% Sustainable Aviation Fuel, demonstrating action towards achieving the sector’s emissions reduction goals including in Airbus flight test activities. All Airbus aircraft today are already certified to fly with up to 50% sustainable aviation fuel on board.

By gauging passengers' perception of cabin comfort, the passenger flight represents an important contribution to the A321XLR’s verification and validation, ensuring full maturity at entry into service for customers in 2024. The flight also enables Airbus to refine the cabin procedures and assess the cabin environment and systems while the aircraft is in the air. 

A321XLR pax flight airbus employees

Airbus employees acting as passengers

During the flight, the passengers were invited to answer a survey about the visual aspects of the cabin, as well as temperature and noise levels. They were asked to test out various cabin systems, including the air conditioning, lighting, galleys, electrics, washrooms and water waste systems, according to Pete Housley, Product Delivery Team Testing leader. Ergonomic aspects were also assessed, such as how easy or hard it is to load and unload the new overhead bins.

A321XLR pax flight survey

In addition to the perception survey, the 22 experts on board took the opportunity to take direct ‘spot’ measurements of acoustic levels and cabin temperature. Crew noise exposure was recorded, especially around the area of the main entrance door. The new Airspace cabin elements were also tested for any vibrations or resonance during different flight phases. “It will be interesting to compare the technical data we captured during the flight with human perception of these parameters,” explains Hans-Gerhard Giesa, Human Factors senior expert in the cabin & cargo team in Hamburg, Germany. “I hope all the measurements  will give us good results and now we have a lot of data to analyse to see if the systems are working as expected.” 

A321XLR pax flight measurement

Voice of passengers

The 167 Airbus employees on board are involved in the A321XLR programme in France, Germany, Spain and the UK. They included Blanca Martinez Gallar, Aerodynamics Engineer in Getafe, Spain, who shared her emotion at being there: “When I learnt that I was going to be selected to be on this flight, I was very happy, and quite proud to be one of the first A321XLR passengers and one of the people out of all the Airbus departments of Aerodynamics to be selected. I worked hard on this aircraft last year, participating in both high speed and low speed performance flight test campaigns for both the CFM and Pratt & Whitney engines, so it’s quite an emotion to fly the A321XLR. As a passenger, I would say the A321XLR is a very comfortable and very quiet aircraft. It was also my first flight in business class, so I was really impressed. I really enjoyed this moment.” 

Hailing from Airbus Atlantic in Montoir de Bretagne, France, Nicolas Moyon, Mechanics operator was also one of the selected passengers: “I was excited to be on board, as I missed my chance to attend the A321XLR first flight last year. I felt grateful to have this second chance. I really appreciated the diversity of the Airbus team on board, working in different functions and locations, be they engineers, operators or support functions. Wherever we are, we are all very proud to contribute to this new-born aircraft.” 

“We had a really great time," says Jim Fawcett, the Lead Flight Test Engineer who has taken part in the A321XLR’s entire  route proving campaign. “It's always interesting to share these moments with our colleagues and to learn more about their job. It’s also a great opportunity for us to show how we are working. I think a lot of our colleagues discovered what it is like to be on a test flight, so it’s a very good experience for all of us.”

A321XLR pax flight crew

With this new flight test, the A321XLR’s intensive certification testing is progressing towards the goal of reaching Type Certification followed by entry into service in 2024. 

The A321XLR is the next step in the evolution of the single-aisle A320neo Family, meeting market demand for increased range and payload on longer routes. The A321XLR will deliver an unprecedented range for single-aisle aircraft, of up to 4,700nm (8,700 km), with 30% lower fuel consumption per seat compared to previous-generation aircraft as well as reduced NOx emissions and noise.

To date, the A320neo Family has accumulated more than 9,700 orders from over 130 customers worldwide. A321XLR orders stand at more than 500 from over 20 customers. 

A321XLR pax flight take off

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