Beluga XL assembly

The first of the five new Beluga XL transporters, derived from the A330-200F, on the Toulouse FAL.
P Masclet/Airbus

The new Airbus Beluga XL is progressing on the Toulouse final assembly line (FAL) as the company gears up to fly the type in the third quarter of 2018.

Work attaching the aircraft’s main cargo door to the fuselage began on the FAL in November, following the installation of the horizontal tailplane, the tail cone and the vertical tailplane. Airbus has also started the electrical and mechanical systems installation for the whole fuselage. Electrical power-on was scheduled for the end of the year and subsequent ground tests early in 2018. Integration work will start soon on the second aircraft. The Beluga XL’s maiden flight in 2018 will kick off a ten-month flight test certification campaign before the aircraft enters service with Airbus Transport International in 2019. The Beluga XL project started in November 2014 to address Airbus’ future requirements for airlift capacity as it begins to increase output. Derived from the A330-200 freighter, the aircraft will have 6,000kg (13,227lb) more payload lifting capacity than the current Beluga aircraft which have been in service since the mid-1990s. Mark Broadbent