Airbus BelugaXL enters service
The Airbus BelugaXL on January 9, 2020, was entered into service, providing the plane manufacturer with 30 per cent extra transport capacity relative to its BelugaST predecessors, which are seven metres shorter and narrower by one metre. The BelugaXL will primarily be used for transporting large aircraft components to support Airbus’ production ramp-up of commercial aircraft programs.
This is the first of six BelugaXLs to begin work alongside the BelugaST aircraft, before the latter is ultimately phased out. The five other BelugaXL aircraft are scheduled to be introduced between 2020 and 2023. They will operate from 11 sites across Europe, most often destined for final assembly lines in Toulouse, France, and Hamburg, Germany.
Launched just over five years ago, in November 2014, the BelugaXL was awarded Type Certification by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in November 2019, following a flight test campaign that included more than 200 flight tests, clocking over 700 flight hours. The aircraft made its first flight in 2018.
At 63 metres long and 8 metres wide, Airbus states the BelugaXL has the largest cargo bay cross-section of all existing cargo aircraft worldwide. It can carry two A350 XWB wings compared to the BelugaST, which can only carry one. With a maximum payload of 51 tonnes, and a max take-off weight of 155 tonnes, the BelugaXL has a range of 4,000 km (2m200 nm). The aircraft has a wingspan of 44.84 metres and height of 17.24 metres.
The BelugaXL is based on an A330-200 Freighter, enabling the re-use of existing components and equipment, and is powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines. Airbus explains the aircraft’s lowered cockpit, cargo bay structure, and its rear-end and tail were newly developed jointly with partners, giving the aircraft its distinctive look.