By David Kaminski-Morrow in London

German aerospace research centre DLR is introducing a new test aircraft in the form of an Airbus A320 previously operated by Austrian carrier Niki.

In around two years the A320, a nine-year old example (OE-LOE, pictured below), will replace the organisation’s ageing VFW 614 test-bed, with its distinctive twin overwing-mounted engines.

Airbus A320 ex-Niki
© DLR 

The VFW 614 was the first passenger jet designed and built in the former West Germany, with 22 examples having been built between 1971 and 1977. The DLR's in-flight simulator (manufacturer's serial number G17, pictured below at the ILA Berlin air show last month) was acquired as D-BABP in 1985 (now re-registered as D-ADAM) and is the last flying example of the VFW 614. It has accumulated over 2,160h flying over 2,600 cycles.  

VFW 614 W445
© Michal Kaczmarek / Wlkp_Spotters 

DLR says that the A320 is to be converted by Airbus into an airborne laboratory and that its first firm test programmes will begin in 2008, focusing on procedures, strategies and technologies to reduce noise.

“The new research aircraft will help scientists perform vital future research in their bid to develop efficient, environmentally-compatible air transport,” says the DLR.

“In the face of a growing volume of air traffic, the aim is to achieve lower noise and emission levels while simultaneously increasing the capacity of airports and air routes, and raising safety standards.”

Additional projects will examine new cockpit displays and study wake vortices, and DLR hopes to experiment with new in-flight techniques such as the use of lasers to measure air-flow and wing deformation.

The organisation states that the aircraft, to be based at Braunschweig, will become an “indispensable component” of European aerospace research, not least because German manufacturers such as EADS, MTU and Rolls-Royce have expressed interest in making use of the jet.

Future research efforts outlined by the organisation include studies into new flight-control concepts and the German government has proposed using the jet for work connected to the ‘Clean Sky’ aerospace technology initiative to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

DLR’s fleet modernisation has also resulted in the acquisition last year of a Gulfstream V aircraft for climate research.

External link:
To find out more about the VFW 614, visit the Friends of 614 web site, with detailed fleet breakdown and image galleries

Source: Flight International