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09 January 2018
Commercial Aircraft

First BelugaXL transporter rolls off assembly line

Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 6
Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 5      
Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 5
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09 January 2018

Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 5

Seen outside its assembly hangar in Toulouse, France, the No. 1 Airbus BelugaXL – the first in a fleet of five – is one of the most voluminous aircraft in existence, able to transport both wings of the A350 XWB jetliner at once

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Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 1      
Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 1
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09 January 2018

Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 1

The No. 1 BelugaXL, the first structurally complete new super transporter by Airbus, is seen behind the No. 2 BelugaXL undergoing its own integration process in an assembly hangar at Airbus’ industrial site in Toulouse, France

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Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 4      
Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 4
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09 January 2018

Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 4

The structurally complete No. 1 Airbus BelugaXL super transporter is seen outside the assembly hangar in Toulouse, France where the No. 2 BelugaXL also is being built

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Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 6      
Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 6
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09 January 2018

Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 6

The first structurally complete Airbus BelugaXL super transporter will have its two jet engines installed and undergo months of tests ahead of its first flight in 2018

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Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 2      
Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 2
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09 January 2018

Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 2

One of five super transporters that Airbus will build, the first BelugaXL is structurally complete and ready for testing after installation of its two jet engines

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No. 2 BelugaXL 1      
No. 2 BelugaXL 1
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09 January 2018

No. 2 BelugaXL 1

The No. 2 BelugaXL super transporter is taking shape at the same assembly hangar at Airbus’ Toulouse-area industrial complex as the nearly complete No. 1 BelugaXL

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No. 2 BelugaXL 2      
No. 2 BelugaXL 2
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09 January 2018

No. 2 BelugaXL 2

Once complete, a fleet of five Airbus BelugaXLs – including this No. 2 super transporter now in the build-up phase – will be used to transport completed sections of Airbus aircraft among the company’s European production sites

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Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 3      
Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 3
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09 January 2018

Structurally complete No. 1 BelugaXL 3

Longer and wider than the BelugaST it is replacing, Airbus’ BelugaXL super transporter required several modifications – including a specially-designed tail section – to ensure stability in flight

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First BelugaXL has its cargo door installed        
 
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05 December 2017

First BelugaXL has its cargo door installed

The first BelugaXL is now structurally complete, with its cargo door having been installed in mid-November 2017.

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This next-generation super transporter is one of the largest aircraft in existence

The first structurally complete airframe for the new BelugaXL rolled out from its assembly hangar in Toulouse, France this month. Once operational, a fleet of these next-generation airlifters will be used to transport completed sections of Airbus aircraft among the company’s European production sites and to its final assembly lines in France, Germany and Spain.

The BelugaXL is one of the most voluminous aircraft in existence, and everything about it speaks to that fact. With a bulging upper forward fuselage and enormous cargo area, the BelugaXL is hardly recognizable as the outsized airlifter version of the Airbus A330-200 jetliner from which it is derived. “We have the A330 as a foundation,” said Bertrand George, head of the BelugaXL programme, “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.”

This initial BelugaXL is expected to be flying by mid-2018. “The whole team is really looking forward to seeing its first flight and, of course, its smiling livery,” said George, referring to the supersized smile that will be painted across the ‘face’ of the transporter, the winning design of six options presented to Airbus employees for a vote in early 2017.

Ground testing for the No. 1 BelugaXL before first flight

Before that can happen, the aircraft will undergo a months-long battery of tests after installation of its two jet engines, ensuring each of the BelugaXL’s systems function as intended. All the while, said George, “We will perform bench tests in Toulouse and Hamburg, Germany – testing our systems on flight simulators and in laboratories” as well as using hydraulic jacks to simulate flight loads on full-scale copies of specific joints between the new upper bubble and A330’s lower fuselage.

“The data from these tests will be used to clear the aircraft for flight and, later on, to attain type certification,” the official pronouncement of the aircraft’s safety and airworthiness, said George.

While the first structurally complete BelugaXL moves into its testing phase, the second A330 to be converted into a BelugaXL arrived on schedule in Toulouse to begin its integration process. George noted that with lessons learned from the production of the first transporter, the assembly time for the second is expected to be about two months shorter.

The BelugaXL programme was launched in November 2014 to address Airbus’ increasing transport requirements. At six metres longer, one metre wider and with a payload lifting capacity six tonnes greater than the BelugaST transporter version it is replacing, the BelugaXL will be able to transport both wings of the A350 XWB jetliner at once, instead of the single wing currently accommodated on the BelugaST. All told, five BelugaXLs are scheduled to enter service for Airbus’ airlift needs.

First BelugaXL has its cargo door installed
 

The first BelugaXL is now structurally complete, with its cargo door having been installed in mid-November 2017.

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