Airbus’s venerable A320 development hack is being prepared for one of its last major test programmes before retirement – the Sharklet trials.
A320 “MSN0001″ was the first of its kind to fly on 22 February 1987 and after completing a large portion of the original flight-test and certification programme has spent the last 24 years as the airframer’s single-aisle workhorse. It has been used to test CFM and IAE engines and upgrades and – in the recent past – back-to-back trials of various winglet designs before Airbus decided to launch the Sharklet programme.
It is now in the hangar in Toulouse (pictured) being modified to start a 220h test programme of the prototype Sharklets in October, ahead of the first production Sharklet machine flying in August 2012.
This historic aircraft – pictured below taxiing after completing an early test flight in Toulouse when it was the world’s only A320 – will continue test duties until it is finally replaced in 2014 when Airbus begins testing the first A320neo. This upgraded aircraft, which will first fly with Pratt’s GTF engine, will then be retained as Airbus’s new development airframe and MSN0001 will be gracefully retired.
It has not yet been decided where it will be preserved, but either Le Bourget’s Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace or the museum at Airbus’s Blagnac airport base must be the frontrunners.