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26 July 2018
26. July 2018 Commercial Aircraft

The BelugaXL airlifter brings a “smile” to Airbus’ production network

BelugaXL first flight - arrival

T
he successful first flight of Airbus’ BelugaXL oversize airlifter marks an important milestone in further enhancing the company’s industrial network to support its production output – including the ramp-up in assembly rates for single-aisle and widebody commercial jetliners.

With an instantly recognisable livery – featuring a whale-type smile that was chosen by Airbus employees in a vote that attracted almost 21,000 participants – the no. 1 BelugaXL’s 19 July maiden takeoff initiated a 10-month, 750-flight hour certification campaign that will use two of the highly modified derivates of Airbus’ A330-200 freighter.

"The aircraft behaves really well in flight," said Christophe Cail, Airbus Chief Test Pilot and captain for the four-hour, 11-minute first flight from the company’s Toulouse, France headquarters site. "It's impressive how close the BelugaXL’s performance is to what we experienced in the ground-based flight simulators. First flights take a lot of preparation and we are just the tip of the iceberg, so ‘thank you’ to the entire team. It's only together that we can make it fly."

The aircraft behaves really well in flight. It's impressive how close the BelugaXL’s performance is to what we experienced in the ground-based flight simulators.

Christophe Cail, Airbus Chief Test Pilot and captain

Highlights of the BelugaXL first flight

 

The no. 1 BelugaXL completed its four-hour, 11-minute maiden flight on 19 July 2018, with this next-generation oversize airlifter taking off and landing at Airbus’ Toulouse, France headquarters location. Earning high marks from the five-person flight test crew on board, it kicked off a 10-month campaign leading up to the BelugaXL’s planned service entry in mid-2019. This video includes comments from Airbus Chief Test Pilot Christophe Cail. Read less Read more

The BelugaXL has 30 percent more capacity than Airbus’ current Beluga ST airlifters.

One of Airbus’ five existing Beluga ST versions – used to carry complete sections of Airbus aircraft from different production sites and to the final assembly lines in Europe – takes to the skies.

As the replacement for Airbus’ current Beluga ST airlifters – which were derived from earlier-production A300-600 jetliners – the BelugaXL features a fuselage that is seven metres longer and an enlarged upper fuselage that is one metre wider.

BelugaXL’s greater size enables the new-generation airlifter to accommodate a set of A350 XWB wings, for example, speeding up their transport from the Broughton, UK production site to the programme's final assembly line in Toulouse. The aircraft also can carry the A350 XWB's largest fuselage section with room to spare. Additionally, the BelugaXL’s 30 percent extra capacity compared to the Beluga ST provides potential to meet ramp-up needs in meeting the global customer demand for Airbus single-aisle and widebody jetliners.

Once in service, the fleet of five BelugaXLs will replace the similar number of Beluga A300-600 ST airlifters operated by Airbus Transport International – Airbus' fully-owned oversize transport subsidiary. Each aircraft will perform between 900 and 1,000 flights per year, logging some 1,700 to 1,800 hours annually in servicing 11 line stations at locations across the company’s European industrial network.

The initial BelugaXL to enter operation in 2019 with Airbus Transport International will be the second-built aircraft, followed by two BelugaXLs during 2020, and one each in 2021 and 2022 – enabling the Beluga STs to be retired during the 2021-2023 timeframe.

BelugaXL by the numbers

 

Starting in mid-2019, the BelugaXL will gradually replace the existing five-member Beluga ST fleet – which is used for carrying complete sections of Airbus aircraft from different production sites around Europe to the final assembly lines in Toulouse, France and Hamburg, Germany. Learn more about Airbus’ next-generation oversize cargo aircraft with this special “animated infographic.” Read less Read more

The BelugaXL airlifter is put through its paces

The BelugaXL airlifter is put through its paces

Beluga

Beluga

For outsized cargo transport

BelugaXL first flight photos

BelugaXL first flight crew 1    
BelugaXL First Flight Take Off Aerial View    
BelugaXL First Flight Take Off Aerial View    
BelugaXL first flight takeoff    
BelugaXL First Flight - In Flight    
BelugaXL First Flight - In Flight    
BelugaXL First Flight - In Flight    
BelugaXL First Flight Low Pass    
BelugaXL first flight    
BelugaXL First Flight Fan Zone Ambiance    
BelugaXL First Flight Landing    
BelugaXL First Flight - Landing    
BelugaXL First Flight Landing    
BelugaXL first flight - landing    
BelugaXL First Flight Landing    
BelugaXL first flight - arrival    
BelugaXL First Flight - Arrival    
BelugaXL first flight – Test crew in cockpit    
BelugaXL First Flight Fan Zone Ambiance    
BelugaXL First Flight - VIP Zone    

BelugaXL first flight video clips

Highlights of the BelugaXL first flight      
In the making: Airbus’ first BelugaXL      
Highlights of the BelugaXL first flight      
BelugaXL first flight takeoff      
BelugaXL by the numbers      
BelugaXL First Flight – Air to air      
BelugaXL First Flight - Arrival      

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