EUROPEAN AEROSPACE giant Airbus has pressed the BelugaXL into service. This achievement builds upon its certification by European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) towards the end of last year. The first visit in service of the XL to the UK occurred on January 14, 2020 when F-GXLH (c/n 1853) landed at Broughton, North Wales.
The XL offers more space on the Trent 700 powered A330-200F design equating to more than a 30% increase over its predecessor. Further advantages in comparison to its older counterpart include a higher gross weight of 56.2 tons (51 tonnes), and a payload range of 2,200nm (4,000km).
Significantly, this enables capacity for carrying two A350 wings simultaneously. Critically, introduction of the XL allows the company to maintain and expand its vital supply chain in fulfilling delivery obligations to airlines. Furthermore, it offers the opportunity to increase the A350 production rate up from the current ten per month to 13 as has been mooted previously.
Both versions of the Beluga will operate alongside one another until the older ST is phased out. It is expected that in three years’ time, the BelugaXL fleet will be at the full complement of six. Originally, only five were planned to be built. Although it was seen that six were better suited for Airbus’ future needs as it states the type helps to “[continue to] strengthen the industrial capabilities and enabling Airbus to deliver on its commitments”.
The original A300-600-derived BelugaST has allowed Airbus and its main partner nations to supply a constant and trusted platform to transport aircraft components between sites in Europe for over 25 years.