THE INITIAL BelugaXL, F-WBXL (msn 1824) went to Airbus’ Bremen plant in November as part of the certification and validation work for the new airlifter.
The jet carried out its maiden flight from Toulouse on July 19, 2018, and is undergoing 600 hours of flight-testing towards type certification by the European Aviation Safety Agency, which is anticipated in the second quarter of 2019.
During the visit to Bremen, loading and unloading tests were carried out to validate the adaptations made to the facility for Belugas at Airbus’ industrial site there. With a length of 63.1m (207ft) the BelugaXL is 6.9m (22ft 6in) longer and 1.7m (5ft 5in) wider than the first-generation aircraft, now known as the BelugaST, and incorporates an enlarged cargo bay structure and modified rear and tail section, so Airbus has had to modify ground infrastructure at its production facilities around Europe.
At Bremen specifically, adaptations have seen the loading hangar equipped with a new rolling shutter door that completely encloses the front fuselage during the loading process.
Service entry for the BelugaXL is due after Q2 2019. Five BelugaXLs will replace the current four BelugaSTs one-by-one over a period of several years. The new jets will increase Airbus’ air transport capacity for the company’s industrial network by about 30%.