Airbus flew its new A320neo on its first test mission on Thursday, marking the start of a 3,000-hour flight-test program scheduled to lead to certification and entry into service in next year’s fourth quarter. Powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney PW1100G geared turbofans, MSN6101 took off from Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France at noon local time. Accompanied by flight test engineer Jean-Paul Lambert, Airbus experimental test pilots Philippe Pellerin and Etienne Miche de Malleray flew the airplane for roughly two and a half hours, landing at 2:22 p.m. The airplane, carrying registration F-WNEO, started undergoing assembly in March and rolled out in July.
The airplane lifted off from Blagnac at around 60 metric tons. During the flight, which took the aircraft around southern France, the crew explored the aircraft’s flight envelope and systems operation, while experts on the ground monitored progress in real time via a direct telemetry link.
Plans call for the flight-test campaign to involve eight aircraft, encompassing all three A320neo models and both new engine options–the PW1100G and the CFM International LEAP-1A. Airbus expects the Pratt & Whitney-powered A320neo to become the first variant in the Neo family to receive type certification, followed by its entry into airline service with Qatar Airways.