Airbus announced on Wednesday that its BelugaXL airlifter was issued a type certification by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The certification for the oversize aircraft follows a rigorous battery of flight-testing with the aircraft flying over 700 hours during the course of more than 200 flight tests.
Airbus currently operates a fleet of five BelugaST super transporters, also known as the A300-600ST. Operated by Airbus Transport International, these aircraft have a key role in keeping Airbus’ production and assembly network operating smoothly.
The Belugas are used to carry complete sections of Airbus aircraft from production sites to the final assembly lines in France and Germany and can be seen flying regularly between Airbus’ facilities in Toulouse and Hamburg. In order to support production increases, including Airbus A350 XWB production, Airbus is replacing the BelugaST with the BelugaXL. Six BelugaXL’s will be manufactured between 2019 and 2023, progressively replacing the current BelugaST fleet.
The BelugaXL first flew in July 2018 and is based on the A330-200 freighter. Powered by Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines, the world’s newest freighter has a maximum payload of just over 56 tons, at which its range is BelugaXL’s range is 2,200 nautical miles.
As compared to its predecessor, the BelugaXL measures just under 23 feet longer and just over three feet wider. The aircraft also boasts a 30 percent increase in transport capacity over the current BelugaST.
The highlight of the BelugaXL’s oversized cargo bay is that it is able to carry two A350 wings at once. The current BelugaST is only capable of carrying one A350 wing at a time, slowing production.
The BelugaXL’s unique design features will certainly make it hard to miss. The BelugaXL’s lowered cockpit, cargo bay structure, rear-end, and tail all give the aircraft a very distinctive look to which it undoubtedly owes its name. Like the BelugaST it is replacing, the BelugaXL will operate from 11 locations in Europe once it enters service in 2020.
Jordan focuses his writing on innovations in commercial aviation, aviation history, and other interesting topics he feels are worthy of discussion in the community.
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