A321 NEO MSN 10.000 for MEA, A330neo weighed down and albatross


Airbus handed Middle East Airlines an Airbus A321neo carrying the MSN10.000, EASA certified the MTOW 251T version of the A330-900, and the “flapping” wing project AlbatrossOne reached a new milestone: the proof of concept.

The third A321neo delivered from Hamburg to the Lebanese national company MEA bears a specific logo on the fuselage: MSN10.000. This is the build number of the Airbus single-aisle family, not the number of aircraft delivered; by the end of August, the total stood at 9,604 (out of 16,219 ordered since the launch of the program). Based at Beirut-Rafic Hariri Airport, Middle East Airlines expects a total of fifteen A321neo, configured to accommodate 28 passengers in Business class and 132 in Economy (160 seats, compared to 126 in its current A320s).

On the widebody side, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has certified a 9-tonne heavier version of the A330neo, which gives it a greater range. The A330-900 MTOW 251t (maximum take-off weight) now offers a significant increase in range of 650 nautical miles – or six tons more payload – compared to the current 242-ton version. To achieve these capabilities, Airbus has retained 99% of spare parts commonality; The increase in MTOW is achieved through a combination of « weight neutral structural reinforcements and landing gear adaptations ». The modifications to the nose gear and main landing gear also allowed Airbus engineers to « extend their overhaul time (TBO), thus extending the previous 10-year interval to a new 12-year timeframe, » which translates into significant savings in maintenance ”.

This increased range “responds to changing market needs, allowing airlines to take advantage of the A330neo’s unique economy for even longer missions – effectively flying routes from 20 minutes to over 5 pm ”, explains Airbus in a press release.

Corsair International airline will be the first airline to operate this « heavier » A330neo. The new MTOW option makes the A330-900 « the ideal solution for longer trans-Pacific or Asia-Europe routes, » said the aircraft manufacturer. Certification to the new 251-tonne weight for the smaller A330-800 will take place « next year, » to allow airlines « to open even longer transpacific routes while offering the “lowest in class” unit cost.

Regarding the future of aviation, Airbus announced on Wednesday that it had taken a new step forward with its AlbatrossONE project, launched in June 2019: the demonstrator based on the A321 successfully carried out a “door-to-door” demonstration with wingtips 75% longer than those tested in the first phase. This latest flight test campaign proves that free flapping wingtips « can lighten wing loads and prevent stalling to improve aircraft performance, » a statement said. The remote-controlled model, with articulated « semi-aeroelastic » wingtips, recently successfully completed a second flight test campaign.

With its amazing ability to travel long distances with little fatigue, the albatross « has a lot to teach aviation engineers about improving aircraft performance. » And the Airbus AlbatrossONE project team « takes a keen interest in this majestic seabird, » testing the principles of the free flapping of the wingtips – able to react and flex in gusts of wind.

In turbulence or gusts, the wing of a conventional aircraft « transmits enormous loads to the fuselage. The base of the wing must therefore be strongly reinforced, which implies more weight on the plane, « said Jean-Brice Dumont, executive vice president of engineering at Airbus. Letting the wingtips react and adapt « reduces the load, and allows us to build lighter and longer wings. The longer the wing, the less drag it creates until optimal spin, which is potentially beneficial for fuel economy.  »

The transition to larger trials is planned but without a specific date.

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