Prominently featuring the NEO branding on its livery, this aircraft – designated MSN6101 in the company’s numbering system – is powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-JM engines and is the first in Airbus’ A320neo Family developmental fleet. It is equipped with extensive flight test instrumentation for handling qualities, performance and engine tests, along with the high-altitude, and hot- and cold-weather campaigns.
In total, Airbus’ NEO flight-test fleet will comprise eight aircraft. This includes two A320neos, one A319neo and one A321neo for each of the new engine choices: Pratt & Whitney’s PW1100G-JM and the CFM International LEAP-1A.
The company’s rigorous A320neo Family flight-test and certification programme is facilitated by the jetliner’s fly-by-wire commonality, as well as previous flight dynamics testing during the Sharklet-certification campaign, explained Sandra Bour-Schaeffer, Project Flight Test Engineer for the NEO programme at Airbus. “We have optimised the flight-test programme – building on our family concept – to progress through this process as efficiently as possible,” she said.
Once MSN6101 takes flight, Airbus will begin with initial development and aircraft flight manual tests, before proceeding into its A320neo development and certification phase and maturity campaign – to ensure the A320neo fully meets customer requirements at service entry, which is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2015.
In addition, a second Pratt & Whitney-powered A320neo aircraft is planned to join the developmental fleet this year – fitted with lighter flight test instrumentation for noise, functionality, reliability testing and ETOPS approval.
Airbus already is well advanced with “up-front” A320neo testing, including approximately 250 flight hours performed on the company’s A320ceo (current engine option) in-house developmental aircraft to evaluate hardware and software for NEO flight control laws, and test bench validation of thrust reversers.
To further prepare for first flight, Airbus will begin a “virtual flight-test campaign” this summer, which includes simulator-based evaluations of flying scenarios and aircraft systems.
Incorporating its new engine choices, along with the application of Airbus’ fuel-saving Sharklets wingtip devices, the NEO shares over 95 per cent commonality with CEO aircraft – while delivering at least 15 per cent reduction in fuel consumption for operators.