The Airbus A321XLR has concluded two sets of cold weather tests in Canada’s Nunavut territory as the manufacturer progresses toward certification of the aircraft in time for entry-into-service in the second quarter (Q2) of 2024.
Two of the three active flight test vehicles (FTVs)—MSN11058 (FTV2) and, most recently, MSN11080 (FTV3)—involved in the program were sent to Iqaluit, Canada, for cold weather tests over the past few weeks. FTV2 is the only Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-powered aircraft participating in the trials. FTV3 has a full passenger cabin and will also be used for function and reliability testing on long-haul flights toward the end of the program.
Iqaluit is a favorite spot for Airbus cold weather trials and has previously been used in other programs such as the A320neo, the A350-900/-1000, the A380, A340-600 and A400m. Iqaluit has a 3,000 m (1.9 mi.) runway and, in addition to being used for scheduled services, is also used as an alternate airport for transatlantic flights.
The latest test phase involving FTV3 focused on the water and waste system, which is different on the XLR from the earlier A321neo versions. Given that the XLR will be used on longer routes, both the fresh water and waste tanks had to be enlarged and some pipes and pumps modified.
According to Flight Test Engineer Jim Fawcett, the aircraft was cold-soaked four times in different configurations. The aircraft was left unpowered overnight, once with the doors open. The next morning, the auxiliary power unit (APU) was started for the aircraft to slowly warm up. Airbus technicians monitored the process observing whether any damage had occurred and whether ice build-ups melted as planned. Hot air ground equipment was also used for the outside. Fawcett said no flaws have been discovered.
Airbus also simulated a turn-around of the aircraft at a cold airport without actually flying it by opening the cabin and cargo doors and draining the water tanks.
The company declined to discuss current flight hours and cycles for the test fleet. The A321XLR is planned to enter service in 2024 Q2.
One key element of the certification campaign is flammability protection for the new rear center tank. European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Executive Director Patrick Ky told Aviation Week in a recent interview that “We spent a lot of time on this and had a very controversial discussion with Airbus about it.” However, “we found a good way to work together with the FAA and Airbus. We are converging on a common understanding of what is a suitable design of the RCT in terms of safety and flammability, and how we can move forward on the certification of the XLR.”
(Jens Flottau - Aviation Week)