Airbus upbeat on A320neo test progress

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Airbus has achieved test instrumentation power-on for its first A320neo, and is conducting load calibration of the aircraft while its Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engines undergo podding.

The aircraft is being prepared for ground-vibration tests and will go to the paint facility “in the next few weeks”, says A320neo programme chief Klaus Roewe.

He says the twin-engined aircraft is to be handed to Airbus’s design organisation at the end of August, and first flight is scheduled for September.

There are no concerns about the geared-fan powerplant, following a failure involving the PW1500G engine during Bombardier CSeries testing last month.

Roewe says the A320neo’s engine is “different” and that its test-bed is not facing “any compromise or limitation”.

“We don’t see a risk to first flight,” he adds.

A320neo project flight-test engineer Sandra Bour-Schaeffer says that Airbus wants to achieve the same take-off and landing performance as the A320 despite the re-engined version’s being 1.6t heavier.

She says the sharklet wing-tip campaign has “paved the way” towards A320neo certification, adding that it has generated some 250h of up-front flight testing.

But she adds that, while the upgrade from the A320 is technically relatively straightforward, the certification regime has changed substantially since the A320 was approved.

Bour-Schaeffer says that, while the A350 has a test fleet of five aircraft, the airframer “can’t afford” to produce the same for the A320neo family range.

Four A320neo test aircraft will be built – two for each engine option – and Bour-Schaeffer says: “We’ve chosen to certify all engine tests on the A320.”

One aircraft in each pair will have heavy instrumentation and conduct handling and hot-and-high performance tests. The second will be lighter – used for testing autopilot, noise, and extended operations – and be “more representative” to customers with “no intrusive instruments”, Bour-Schaeffer adds.

Each of the two derivative airframes, the A319neo and A321neo, will have only two test aircraft, one for each engine. While several test results can simply be “read across” from the A320neo to the A319neo, owing to their identical wings, tests such as noise assessment have to be repeated for the A321neo. The A321neo will have to undergo a surface-water test, rather than rely on modelling.

Airbus is to conduct a virtual first flight campaign for the A320neo in summer ahead of the maiden sortie.