BelugaXL freighter enters into service

By Damian Brett

BelugaXL

Airbus’ BelugaXL freighter has entered into service after making its first operational flight on January 9.

The aircraft will provide Airbus with 30% extra transport capacity compared with the existing BelugaST aircraft, which the aircraft manufacturer said would support the on-going production ramp-up of commercial aircraft programmes.

The BelugaXL can carry two A350 XWB wings compared with the BelugaST, which can only carry one. With a maximum payload of 51 tonnes, the BelugaXL has a range of 4,000km.

At 63 m long and 8 m wide, the BelugaXL has the largest cargo bay cross-section of all existing cargo aircraft worldwide.

This is the first of six BelugaXL to begin work alongside the BelugaST predecessors, with the additional five aircraft being introduced between 2020 and 2023. 

“The entry into service marks yet another milestone for the internal aircraft programme, which was awarded Type Certification by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in November 2019, following an intensive flight test campaign that saw the BelugaXL complete more than 200 flight tests, clocking over 700 flight hours,” Airbus said.

The BelugaXL is based on an A330-200 freighter, enabling the re-use of existing components and equipment, and is powered by Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines.

The lowered cockpit, the cargo bay structure and the rear-end and tail were newly-developed jointly with partners, giving the aircraft its distinctive look.

“While air transport remains the primary method for transporting large aircraft components, Airbus also uses road, rail and sea transport to move parts between its production sites,” the airframer said.

“Like the BelugaST, the aircraft will operate from 11 destinations in Europe, continuing to strengthen industrial capabilities and enabling Airbus to deliver on its commitments.”

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