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Airbus performs 13-hour test flight of the A321XLR

Airbus conducted a 13-hour test flight with its A321XLR prototype, covering a tour of nine different countries and drawing a large XLR in the sky over the Bay of Biscay. The crew was monitoring the aircraft's systems, pilots and flight test engineers were checking that the unique modifications to the A321's fuel systems would perform as they should during extended flight. To extend the range of the A321 from the 7,400 km of the A321LR to 8,700 km of the A321XLR, Airbus added a permanent rear center fuel tank integrated into the fuselage. According to information from Flightradar, it is this range that places the A321XLR in an exceptional place, as it contributes to the economy of a single aisle on routes that were previously only accessible with a wide-body aircraft, such as the A330 or 787. “We made some modifications to this aircraft and it was important to verify that they functioned correctly throughout the flight,” explained lead test engineer Jim Fawcett, of the fuel tanks. To perform this review, the A321XLR was fueled to full capacity and flown to the minimum fuel level allowed before landing. This gave the flight test team plenty of time - more than 13 hours - in the air to study the fuel system. Fawcett indicated that all transfers worked correctly, as well as the feedback to the crew was positive and the transfer rates were nominal, so the company was able to fly a long flight to verify the results. The A321XLR is expected to enter service in 2024. Prior to certification, scheduled for late 2023 or early 2024, the aircraft's flight test program will have a full schedule of system checks. In early 2023, Airbus will send the A321XLR for cold-weather testing on what will be the aircraft's first intercontinental flight.

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