The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has issued type certification for the Airbus BelugaXL, enabling the whale-shaped oversize air transporter’s entry into service by early 2020 and securing the OEM’s planned production ramp-ups. Like its predecessor, the BelugaST—also known as A300-600ST Super Transporter—the BelugaXL will be used for carrying complete sections of Airbus aircraft from different production sites around Europe to the final assembly lines in Toulouse, France, and Hamburg, Germany. It is powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 700 turbofan engines suspended on underwing pylons and has a range of 2,200 nautical miles (4,074km) with a maximum payload of 51 tonnes.
Based on the Airbus A330-200 freighter, the BelugaXL incorporates several newly developed elements, including its lowered cockpit, a highly enlarged cargo bay structure, and modified rear and tail section. Because it is 7 meters longer and 1 meter wider than the ST version, the XL allows for 30 percent extra transport capacity and can carry two A350 XWB wings while the ST can carry only one. The aircraft’s wingspan is 60.3 meters, overall length is 63.1 meters, and its height tops 18.9 meters.
Airbus launched the BelugaXL in November 2014 to address transport and ramp-up capacity requirements beyond 2019. The first aircraft rolled off the assembly line on January 4, 2018, and performed its maiden flight in July 2018. The model gained EASA approval following an intensive flight-test campaign that saw the BelugaXL complete more than 200 flight tests, clocking over 700 flight hours.
In total, six BelugaXLs will be built between 2019 and 2023, gradually replacing the current fleet of five BelugaST transporters, Airbus said on Wednesday.