As the year draws to a close, the aviation community is looking forward to a brighter 2022. With hopes for a continued recovery, more and more companies are promising to launch new aircraft, many of which had been put on hold due to the pandemic.  

At AeroTime, we have compiled a list of aircraft – both civilian and military – which stand a good chance of being spotted in the air for the first time. Some of them may have flown before, but only occasionally, and not many people had a chance to observe them. Others are brand new, and offer a unique chance for plane spotters to witness a maiden flight. 

New commercial airplanes to spot in 2022 

 

Airbus A321XLR 

What? A maiden flight of Airbus’s latest (and record-breaking) jet 

When? 2022 (precise date undisclosed) 

Where? Airbus Hamburg Finkenwerder Airport (XFW) 

The newest addition to Airbus’s venerable A320 family is unique in many aspects: it is the longest-range narrow body aircraft ever made, and offers airlines a chance to begin intercontinental flights between destinations that are too small to warrant flying a wide-body jet.  

The aircraft was first announced in 2018. Back then, the plan was to put it into service by 2022. However, it suffered some delays and it wasn’t until mid-2021 that the first prototype entered assembly. In late 2021, it was almost ready, with only the finishing touches left, as the airframe was at the very end of the assembly line at the Airbus Hamburg facility. 

While the company is yet to announce the exact date for the maiden flight of the aircraft, we could surmise that it will be rolled out at the beginning of 2022, and start flying soon after that.  

Airbus A321XLR Aerotime news
Image: FIXION, dreamstime.com, Airbus

READ MORE:
 
Airbus announced that its long-range narrow-body A321XLR prototype has been assembled and is almost ready to be rolled out. 
 

 

Airbus TwoTwenty 

What? Test flights of Airbus’s newest business jet 

When? Early 2022 

Where? Indianapolis international Airport (IND)

The newest addition to the Airbus Corporate Jet family is already here: the TwoTwenty bizjet, based on the A220-100 airliner, completed its maiden flight on December 14, just before Christmas.  

The aircraft has already got a private buyer. But before being delivered, it will head to Comlux, a company which purchased the first batch of TwoTwenties for reselling and leasing. Comlux is going to outfit the aircraft with suitable interiors at its Indianapolis facility, and that is where plane spotters will have an opportunity to catch the hot new thing in business aviation.  

TwoTwenty is significant in another way. For a while, Airbus has been hinting that it might produce new versions of the A220 – either the stretched A220-500 or an A220-300 with additional fuel tanks for those long-haul narrow-body operations. Several airlines, including Air Baltic and Breeze Airways, have been pressuring the manufacturer to get on with the idea, saying that they want the TwoTwenty’s capabilities imported to passenger A220s. So, a successful start for the Airbus TwoTwenty jet could eventually lead to yet another variant of the A220. 

Airbus ACJ TwoTwenty
Image: Airbus

 

COMAC C919 

What? The first delivery of China’s new mainline airliner 

When? 2022 (precise date unknown) 

Where? Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA) 

China’s attempt to compete with the Boeing 737 MAX and the Airbus A320neo did not go exactly as planned. The aircraft, which was expected to enter into service by 2016, was delayed time and time again. 

The most recent delays came due to difficulties with certification – the final step before allowing the airplane to fly commercial flights. COMAC planned to certify the aircraft before the end of 2021, but due to supply issues the plans did not materialize – it was delayed once again

However, as soon as those difficulties are sorted out, the airplane will be able to be certified and finally delivered to its launch customer, China Eastern Airlines. The country’s second largest carrier signed a contract for five C919s, and the first of those entered the final assembly at COMAC’s Shanghai facility in September 2021.  

It is too soon to say exactly when the aircraft will be delivered, but it seems likely that the only thing keeping China Eastern from putting the domestic aircraft into service is certification. 

COMAC C919
Image: Ken Chen / Wikimedia Commons

 

Universal Hydrogen ATR 72  

What? Maiden flight of hydrogen-powered ATR 72 

When? 2022 (precise date unknown) 

Where? Moses Lake, Washington 

The use of hydrogen as aviation fuel seems to be on the riseWhile most of the hydrogen-powered aircraft produced so far have been small-scale demonstrators, in 2022 at least two companies are going to test something bigger. 

Universal Hydrogen, a Los Angeles-based start-up, is planning to present a 40-seat ATR 72 regional turboprop converted to run on hydrogen fuel cells. The date of the first flight hasn’t been announced, but it should take place at the soon-to-be-built hydrogen aircraft testing center at Moses Lake, Washington. 

 

Project Fresson hydrogen Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander 

What? Maiden flight of hydrogen-powered Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander   

When? 2022 (precise date unknown) 

Where? Location yet unannounced 

Another company with big plans is Cranfield Aerospace, whose Project Freson is aimed at developing zero-emissions propulsion systems. Soon after they announced a switch from hybrid-electric to hydrogen, the company started adapting its BN-2 experimental aircraft, and plans to test it in 2022. Further details are unclear. 

 

What about Boeing? 

The past few years have not been good for Boeing. The 737 MAX crisis and the delays with the 777X inflicted a lot of damage on the manufacturer, and it does not currently plan to debut any new aircraft this year. The Boeing 737 MAX 10, which completed its maiden flight in June 2021, was planned to be delivered in 2022 – but that event was delayed to 2023. The certification and eventual deliveries of the 777X were pushed from 2021 to 2022, then to 2023, and finally to 2024 – before being brought back to 2023 under pressure from disgruntled buyers.  

In any case, no new Boeing airplanes will be spotted this year, but both the MAX 10 and 777X are being tested and displayed at an occasional airshow. 

 

New experimental aircraft to spot in 2022 

 

Lockheed Martin X-59 QueSST 

What? The maiden flight of NASA’s quiet supersonic flight technology demonstrator 

When? 2022 (precise date unknown) 

Where? Edwards Air Force Base (EDW), California 

The X-59, developed as a collaboration between Lockheed Martin and NASA, is intended to test the possibility of quiet supersonic flight. Its airframe has been designed to produce as little sonic boom as possible so that the technology can later be applied on commercial supersonic aircraft – and open the way to the modern successors of the famous Concorde. 

According to the latest plans, NASA intends to finish ground testing the X-59 in Fort Worth, Texas, and then ship it to California for flight tests scheduled for 2022. Unfortunately, no precise information has been revealed so we will have to wait for further announcements.  

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Supersonic travel is on the cusp of making a comeback. Check out our list of the 10 most promising projects to build the world's fastest business jet.
 


Image: NASA

 

Boom XB-1 

What? The maiden flight of Boom‘s supersonic flight technology demonstrator 

When? 2022 (precise date unknown) 

Where? Centennial Airport (APA), Colorado 

A sub-scale demonstrator for Boom Supersonic’s Overture airliner, the XB-1, also known as baby Boom, was unveiled in October 2020.  

Initial plans saw it flying in 2021, but the maiden flight was pushed to “late 2021, early 2022”. We can only hope the aircraft will not get delayed again - its flight would be a good companion for the X-59, making 2022 a true milestone for commercial supersonic travel. 

Boom XB-1 demonstrator AeroTime News
Image: Boom Technologies

 

New military aircraft to spot in 2022 

 

Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider 

What? The reveal and flight of the United States’ newest strategic bomber 

When? Mid-2022 (precise date unknown) 

Where? Edwards Air Force Base (EDW), California 

Northrop Grumman B-21 is going to build upon the legacy of the famous B-1 stealth bomber. In development for a good chunk of the last decade, the aircraft is expected to be very expensive and incredibly high-tech. 

So far, only renderings of it have been released, and not much is known except that two airframes were supposedly completed in mid-2021. 

For some time, it was thought that the reveal first flight was going to happen in late 2021, but then it was announced that the event is scheduled for the middle of 2022, with the roll-out, possibly, happening a bit earlier. 


Image: Northrop Grumman

 

KAI KF-21 Boramae 

What? The maiden flight of South Korea’s new fighter jet 

When? July 2022 

Where? Sacheon Airport (HIN) 

The long story of South Korea’s newest stealth fighter jet – the KAI KF-21 Boramae – is nearing an end. The aircraft was finally rolled out in April 2021, at the premises of Korea Aerospace Industries in Sacheon.  

Its maiden flight has been scheduled for July 2022 for a while now, and this is the most concrete date of any of 2022’s new aircraft. So, if you want to see the new jet in person, now is the time to book your tickets to South Korea. 

KAI KF-21 rollout
Image: KAI

 

Chengdu J-20S 

What? A glimpse of China’s twin-seat stealth fighter jet 

When? Precise date unknown 

Where? Location unknown 

The Chengdu J-20 is China’s first fifth-generation fighter jet, and the country’s response to the likes of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and the Sukhoi Su-57. However, not content with playing catch-up, China decided to go a step further. A new variant of the jet has been spotted several times in 2021, sporting a new and enlarged canopy, and presumably having a cockpit fit for two pilots.  

Not much is known about the aircraft except that, given it is likely to carry two pilots, it has various advantages including controlling a flight of combat drones or processing additional intelligence. The J-20S, as the aircraft was unofficially named, has not been introduced or announced, but we anticipate that it will appear again in 2022, giving a few lucky plane spotters a glimpse of it in the distance. And maybe China will reveal it to the world? 

 

Carrier-based Shenyang FC-31 variant 

What? The reveal for China’s carrier-based stealth fighter 

When? Precise date unknown 

Where? Location unknown 

In September 2021, Sun Cong, chief designer of the FC-31, said that the aircraft would be revealed by the end of the year. At the time of writing, two weeks remain.  

Whatever happens, it’s likely that we will see the completion of the FC-31 saga fairly soon: the aircraft was revealed back in 2012 has been subject to endless speculation. Is China going to abandon it? Will it be turned into an export product? Can it be adapted for the country’s new aircraft carriers? 

It’s more than possible that both the carrier-based and the export variants are on the table, if information revealed at Zhuhai airshow 2021 is to be believed.  

FC-31 model at Zhuhai

 

What about the Sukhoi Checkmate, the Loyal Wingmen and the 6th gen jets? 

2021 was full of news about new military developments. Russia unveiled the Sukhoi Checkmate – a new fifth-generation fighter jet intended to conquer the export market. However, although at the announcement the manufacturers said its prototype is “ready for flight”, later it was revealed that the maiden flight will not take place before 2023. Nevertheless, Russia’s Rostec is likely going to parade a mock-up of the new jet at the major airshows. 

There was also news about various loyal wingmen projects – autonomous drones which are supposed to supplement manned fighter jets by being almost equal to them in every aspect. Boeing proceeded with the tests of the ATS, as did General Atomics with the specially modified Avenger, and the Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie showed some fairly impressive results. China revealed its own take on the concept, and there were other, weirder announcements. While nothing major is scheduled for 2022, it’s expected that the existing projects will continue. 

The sixth generation fighter jet projects follow the same trend. Although Northrop Grumman showcased some impressive renderings, and Russia finally confirmed that it is working on one, there were no groundbreaking announcements, and nothing major is scheduled for 2022. Despite that, there is always a chance that something new will appear in the sky.