The maiden flight of the Airbus A321 XLR, the European manufacturer’s latest aircraft and the longest-range narrow-body airliner in the world, may come sooner than expected.
On April 12, 2022, the first aircraft of the type has been spotted outside of Airbus assembly facility in Hamburg, with its engines attached. The final assembly of the aircraft’s airframe has been completed in December 2021.
Airbus did not provide concrete deadlines on when the maiden flight of the aircraft is expected, only stating that it is planned for 2022.
According to Air-Journal, the company plans to start flight testing the aircraft by the start of the summer 2022. Meanwhile, an unnamed Airbus spokesperson told Aerotelegraph, the start of the flight testing should happen in the second quarter of 2022.
According to earlier Airbus statements, the final phase of the assembly of the A321 XLR does not differ from the assembly of the A321 LR, on which the former is based. Therefore, the last stages of preparations for the flight do not pose additional challenges for the manufacturer.
The A321 XLR is going to have a maximum range of 4,700 nautical miles (over 8,700 kilometers), 700 miles (12,000 kilometers) more than its shorter-range predecessor.
The aircraft proved extremely popular with airlines following its launch in 2019, racking up over 450 orders in the first year of sales.
According to Airbus, the first deliveries of the type are expected to start in 2023.