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Airbus details composition of A320neo test fleet

Airbus is planning to use four A320neos, two A319neos and two A321neos for its re-engined narrowbody programme's flight-test programme.

For each variant, half the aircraft will be powered by the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G geared turbofan and half by the CFM International Leap-1A engine.

While the first flight of the re-engined family was made by a PW1100G-equipped A320neo today, a Leap-powered sister aircraft is to join the test campaign in the first half of 2015.

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Airbus aims to complete the flight-test programme with about 2,800 flight hours, says A320neo programme senior vice-president Klaus Roewe. Around 1,600h are to be flown with A320neos, split evenly between PW1100G- and Leap-powered aircraft – with the remainder being accounted for by the A319neo and A321neo derivatives.

Most of the engine characteristics will be identified on the four A320neos, says head of flight operations Fernando Alonso. A PW1100G-powered A320neo will be used for high-altitude tests and operations in hot and cold temperatures. Meanwhile, an aircraft with Leap engines will be used to assess autopilot functionality, noise and ETOPS operation.

While the test campaign will not focus on areas that have been taken over from the first A320 generation without changes – such as hydraulic and electrical systems – aircraft handling and performance need to be assessed for the six different airframe and engine combinations, says Alonso.

The test fleet will be operated like a small airline to assess the aircraft's performance and reliability not just in flight, but also in terms of ground support, line and scheduled maintenance, and spares supply, says Roewe. The test programme is to include around 300 flight hours of route proving.

Airbus plans to certificate the PW1100G-powered A320neo by late 2015 and the Leap-equipped variant by June 2016.

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