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HAMBURG (DPA-AFX) – Airbus (formerly Airbus SE (formerly EADS)), the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, has cleared a significant hurdle in the development of its smallest long-haul jet, the A321XLR. At 11:05 a.m., the test aircraft with the serial number MSN 11000 took off from the Airbus plant in Hamburg-Finkenwerder on its maiden flight. After around four and a half hours, the machine landed back in Finkenwerder at 3:40 p.m., as an Airbus spokesman announced on Wednesday afternoon. According to the Flighttrader24 portal, the test flight took place over northern Germany and parts of the North and Baltic Seas.
The aircraft is a new long-haul version of the A321neo medium-haul jet. “XLR” stands for “Extra Long Range”. The model is also intended to pay airlines on long-haul routes where the demand for tickets for the wide-body jets otherwise used is not high enough. The competition Boeing from the USA does not offer a model with the same capacity and range. According to Airbus, more than 20 customers have placed orders for more than 500 XLRs.
Thanks to an additional fuel tank in the fuselage behind the wings and an optional spare tank, the jet should have a range of up to 8,700 km. This would allow the machine to cover non-stop routes across the Atlantic from Central Europe. In a typical two-class configuration, it should offer space for 180 to 220 passengers.
The European manufacturer announced the development of the A321XLR almost three years ago at the Le Bourget air show near Paris. A few weeks ago, Airbus boss Guillaume Faurie promised the first flight by the middle of this year – which has now happened. However, the delivery of the first machine was postponed from the end of 2023 to the beginning of 2024.
The reason for the postponement is the difficulties in the approval process. According to insiders, it is about fire protection between the additional tank and the passenger cabin. The point was previously criticized by the European aviation authority ISA. Airbus faces the challenge of not making the aircraft heavy enough with better fire protection. Because more weight can reduce the range of the aircraft.
Airbus advertises that the A321XLR consumes around 30 percent less fuel per passenger and kilometer than a comparable competitor model of the previous generation. The focus is on the Boeing 757, of which more than 1000 machines were delivered between 1982 and 2005. Then Boeing stopped production. In Germany, the long version of the 757 model, which has been in production since the late 1990s, is still in service with the Condor holiday airline.
In the meantime, despite ideas, a successor to Boeing has yet to be planned. The American company has repeatedly promised to develop this model. The jet was dubbed the New Midsize Airplane (NMA) and was previously informally known as the Boeing 797. However, after Boeing faced a serious crisis in 2019 following two fatal crashes of its 737 MAX mid-range jet and global flight restrictions, management halted development of the NMA ./stw/nas /hey
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