To support the A350 XWB ramp-up and other production rate increases, Airbus is replacing its five-aircraft A300-600ST fleet with six BelugaXL aircraft, derived from the company’s versatile A330 wide-body product line.
In addition to the significant use of existing components and equipment, Airbus’ A330-based BelugaXLs incorporate newly-developed elements including its lowered cockpit, a highly-enlarged cargo bay structure, and modified rear and tail section.
Sized at seven metres longer and one metre wider than its BelugaST predecessor, the BelugaXL provides 30% extra transport capacity. As an example, the BelugaXL can carry two wings of an A350 XWB jetliner, while the BelugaST can only accommodate one. With a maximum payload of 51 tonnes, the BelugaXL has a range of 4,000 km (2,200 nm).
The BelugaXL performed its maiden flight in 2018. Type Certification for the Airbus airlifter was issued in November 2019 by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which paved the way for the first BelugaXL’s service entry two months later in January 2020.
As with the BelugaST, the BelugaXL fleet will operate from 11 destinations in Europe, continuing to strengthen Airbus’ industrial capabilities and enabling the company to meet its production and delivery commitments.