Airbus’ BelugaXL cargo transport aircraft has received type certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency ahead of its planned entry-into-service early next year.
The aircraft is 63m (206ft) long, around 7m (23ft) longer than the Beluga ST it is replacing and can carry 30% more cargo. Based on the A330, the Beluga XL has been modified to feature highly-enlarged cargo bay structure and modified rear and tail section.
Airbus uses the Beluga aircraft to move large sections of aircraft between 11 of its manufacturing and assembly sites in Europe.
The aircraft is an integral part of Airbus’ industrial system and a key enabler for production ramp-up requirements beyond 2019. The BelugaXL allows for 30% extra transport capacity being 7 metres longer and 1 metre wider than its BelugaST predecessor.
The company plans to have built six Beluga XLs by 2023 to replace its current fleet of Beluga STs.
Flight testing of the Beluga XL began on July 19, 2018 from Airbus’ Toulouse headquarters in France and incorporated 200 flight tests and 700 flight hours.
According to Airbus, the Beluga XL has the largest cargo bay cross-section of all existing cargo aircraft worldwide, enabling it to carry two A350 XWB wings compared to the BelugaST, which can carry one. The aircraft, which is powered by Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines can carry up to 51 tonnes and has a range of 4,000km (2200nm).