Final assembly of the first Airbus A321XLR
The structural completion of Airbus The A321XLR, MSN11000, in the Final Assembly Line (FAL) in Hamburg, Germany, follows the recent assembly and equipping of Major Component Assemblies (MCA) and their subsequent delivery and timely introduction into the FAL in November 2021. These ACMs included (but not limited to): nose and forward fuselage, delivered from Saint Nazaire, France; the central and rear fuselage assembled in Hamburg; the wings of Broughton, United Kingdom; the landing gear supplied by Safran and the vertical and horizontal tail units respectively from Stade and Getafe.
While other Airbus FAL sites will eventually produce A321XLRIn order to fill the vast order book of this type, Hamburg has been chosen to pilot this new variant in series production starting with the three development flight test aircraft which are currently in various stages of completion.
Head of the A320 Family The program Michael Menking explains, “We are currently in the process of delivering the A321XLR from other single-aisle FALs. It is therefore important that all teams learn from the Hamburg experience so that we can bring this knowledge to other facilities. This is also what we are doing with the Airspace cabin of the A320 family that we started in Hamburg.
Of the four assembly lines of the A320 Family in Hamburg, the one that processes the first A321XLR is called “FAL Line 2”, which is located inside the “Hangar-9” building. The next two A321XLR development aircraft – MSN11058 and MSN11080 – will follow from the same assembly line.
Once all of the MCAs from the initial -XLR aircraft reached the FAL, they then came together in a series of stations to create a complete, recognizable aircraft. The journey through these stations lasted about four weeks.
At station 42/43, the open and separate rear and front fuselage sections offered accessibility to accommodate their fully equipped monuments (galleys, toilets).
Subsequent assembly of these fuselage sections and final installation of the monuments took place at station 41. Here, more than 3,000 rivets joined the front and rear fuselage sections. Importantly, these fuselage sections contained the A321XLR’s essential new catalyst: its Special Center Rear Tank (RCT) produced by Premium Aerotec. The RCT contains the 12,900 L of additional fuel required for its 4,700 nm range capability. The XLR’s lower fuselage also contains a larger wastewater tank for extra-long flights. In addition, interior furnishings (floor panels, cargo loading system and cockpit linings) and cabin electrical systems were also installed at station 41.
Once the above step was completed, the FAL teams carefully lifted the entire fuselage section using an overhead crane, then lowered it into a jig at station 40. This was the most visually impressive stage, where they physically positioned the pending wing and landing gear assemblies. down to their new fuselage with submillimeter precision.
Approximately 2,400 rivets were then used to provide a sturdy connection of the two wings to the fuselage. Here, the aircraft also received its Toulouse-made engine pylons. Another important step of this station was the functional electrical supply. From then on, the plane no longer needed a crane, since it could be pulled on its own wheels to the next station.
Station 35 saw the installation of the horizontal and vertical stabilizers (the Getafe HTP in Spain and the Stade VTP in Germany), the tail cone, the inner flaps, the main landing gear doors, the radome, the weather radar , air ducts, air conditioning system, water system, fuel system (which is modified for RCT on -XLR), belly fairing, APU and all passenger and cargo doors. The hydraulic system was also energized here, along with the installation of the cabin liners, hat racks, passenger service channel and cargo compartment panels. Finally, the fuel tanks were sealed at station 35.
The tests and installation of the cabin took place at station 25. They included: fuselage pressurization tests; HTP final rigging; interior furnishings (including emergency lighting, storage, etc.); testing of cabin systems (lighting, emergency lighting, audio, video systems, etc.); and system tests (avionics, communication and navigation tests, tank leak tests).
The final FAL phase will be at Station 23 for final testing and interior finishing. This includes the installation of seats for flight test engineers, main landing gear testing, and overall cabin testing.
After passing through all these stations, the first A321XLR will have transformed from a collection of spare parts into a real aircraft, and the deployment of Hangar-9 on its newly installed landing gear.
Gerd Weber, responsible for managing A320 Family and FAL value streams, explains: “During the final assembly of the A321XLR aircraft there is not much variation compared to other A321 aircraft. The major differences in the -XLR are visible in the ‘pre-FAL’, at the section assembly level, where the RCT is installed, for example.
He adds, “This test aircraft has a partial cabin installed to allow space for all required flight test equipment. What is also specific to this first A321XLR is that there is a lot of documentation work to do, especially for the flight test setup, which is very different from our production process. This requires special attention from all teams in closing documentation and dealing with discrepancies. “
From there, MSN11000 will enter a task force to install its sophisticated Flight Test Instrumentation (FTI) suite, followed by the installation of its CFM LEAP engines and nacelles. The engines will then be tested for the first time, along with the landing gear retraction mechanism and door fairings, followed by an overall quality control of the aircraft.
The next production step is the application of the aircraft’s external paint scheme, shortly before the aircraft is handed over to the flight test teams. Eager to take possession of their new machine for the first time, they will activate it and perform a series of ground tests on all systems, flight controls, engines and APUs. They will perform the taxi races and the first flight of the -XLR, which will take place next year.