The production of a brand-new freight aircraft has started inside the walls of the Hamburg plant of Plane manufacturer Airbus.
The future aircraft is called the “Beluga XL” and is supposed to take to the air in mid-2019, according to a press realease Airbus.
The Airbus Beluga XL is based on the A330-200 airliner and will be the successor to the Airbus Beluga. The XL has an extension on the fuselage top like the Beluga. It is being designed, built and will be operated by Airbus to move oversized aircraft parts.
The future freighter will be a real powerhouse in the air. Equipped with two Rolls Royce turbines, the Beluga XL will be able to carry 12% more loading capacity compared to its 'older brother', a modified “Super Transporter” of the Airbus A300F that is in use since 1995.
Beluga XL: The flying whale
The brand-new freight carrier has the looks of a giant whale with its big bubble above the cockpit and the over dimensioned fuselage. It will be six meters longer and one meter wider than the 'regular' Beluga and will be able to lift a payload six tons heavier.
Is the Beluga XL going to enter the commercial market?
The title of this blog might be a little deceiving because the Beluga XL is not actually going to hit the market. Where the smaller Beluga has occasionally been utilized in exceptional cases like natural disasters, the upcoming 5 units of the XL will not be going full commercial.
"The decision is paramount for supporting the Airbus A350 XWB ramp-up and enable further aircraft production rate increases by delivering a growing flood of components to the assembly lines in Toulouse and Hamburg. It comes as result of increased market demand for both single aisle and wide body aircraft, particularly the A320 neo and the A350 series. This implies transporting large items like wings or tail units between the different production platforms run by the plane maker, including supplier sites that are part of the supply chain. With its larger fuselage cross-section, measuring 8.80 meters the BelugaXL beats the dimension of the existing Belugas by 1.09 m. It enables the new freighter to accommodate two wings of the A350 passenger jetliner on its deck at a time, compared to only one wing that can be loaded on board the current Beluga fleet. "
Media Relations Manager Marion Brochart of Airbus explained further: “We intend to use our new Beluga for Airbus purposes only. We are building this fleet based on our production growth and needs and won’t have spare ones available for other markets.”
The five Beluga XL's provide an additional 30% in transport capacity for Airbus.
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