Airbus BelugaXL cargo transport makes flight debut

The BelugaXL, Airbus’ latest iteration of cargo transporter for its own aircraft parts, has completed its maiden flight.

BelugaXL

Based on an A330-200 Freighter, the BelugaXL is powered by two Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines. The aircraft’s lower fuselage was assembled on the A330 final assembly line, then moved to building L34 at Airbus’ Toulouse plant, a facility previously used for A350 and A380 static testing. It took around three months and 8,000 parts to first cut away the upper fuselage, then prepare the aircraft for the enlarged cargo hold to be fitted. The oversized bay has a payload capacity of 51 tonnes, compared to the 47 tonnes of the BelugaST, which the XL will replace. According to Airbus, the 63m freighter can carry up to seven adult African elephants.

Airbus will use the aircraft to ship large components, such as wings for the A350XWB, between 11 European bases. Unlike its predecessor, the XL will be able to transport two A350 wings together. Bringing an A350 to the final assembly line using the current Beluga takes nine times the flying hours required for an A320. The BelugaXL will go some way to redressing that disparity. At present, the existing five BelugaSTs fly five times a day, six days a week, and clocked a total flight time in excess of 10,000 hours in 2017. As the XL comes into service, the older Beluga will be retired around 2021.

Taking off and landing at Toulouse-Blagnac airport, the BelugaXL was in the air for a total of four hours and 11 minutes. It will now undergo around 600 hours of flight testing over the next 10 months before gaining certification and entering service in 2019. In total, five BelugaXLs are due to be built, with the fleet fully operational by 2023.

BelugaXL in numbers

  • Capacity: 53 t (117,000 lb) payload
  • Length: 63.1 m (207 ft 0 in)
  • Wingspan: 60.3 m (197 ft 10 in)
  • Height: 18.9 m (62 ft 0 in)
  • Wing area: 361.6 m2 (3,892 sq ft)
  • Aspect ratio: 10.1
  • Max takeoff weight: 227,000 kg (500,449 lb)
  • Maximum landing weight: 187 t (412,000 lb)
  • Maximum zero fuel weight: 178 t (392,000 lb)
  • Empty weight: 125 t (276,000 lb)
  • Fuselage diameter: 8.8 m (29 ft)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Rolls-Royce Trent 700 Turbofan, 316 kN (71,000 lbf) thrust eachMORE AEROSPACE NEWS