The first of the enormous new BelugaXL transporters is now structurally complete and emerged from its assembly hangar earlier this month. This will be part of a fleet of transporters which Airbus will use to deliver sections of aircraft to its production sites around Europe.
The BelugaXL is converted from the Airbus A330-200 and is equipped with a huge cargo area. This version of the Beluga will replace the BelugaST and has a six tonne greater payload lifting capacity. Bertrand George, head of the BelugaXL programme, said “We have the A330 as a foundation but many changes have been successfully designed, introduced into the aircraft and tested. Transforming an existing product into a super transporter is not a simple task.”
The BelugaXL is expected to take to the skies by mid-2018 after it has completed its tests. After the two Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines have been installed, the aircraft will have a month of testing to ensure that all systems are functioning. Meanwhile, the second A330 will begin its transformation process. Airbus hopes that it can cut the production time by two months due to experience gained from the conversion of the first aircraft.
Airbus are following a schedule to produce five BelugaXLs which will help with their increased transportation demands. The increased capacity of the transporter will be able to carry both wings of an A350 XWB jetliner as opposed to the single wing capacity of the BelugaST.
The first of the BelugaXLs will also have a special design which was chosen by Airbus employees. The transporter will be decorated with a giant smile as it starts work later this year. George said, “The whole team is really looking forward to seeing its first flight and, of course, its smiling livery.”