News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

Airbus reveals some of the key differences between current Beluga and new Beluga XL airlifter

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Tuesday, Dec 27th, 2016.

Airbus has revealed some of the key differences in the design of it’s new Beluga XL, the oversized airlifter which due to come into service in 2019.

Beluga XL, like it’s predecessor will support Airbus’ industrial air transport capability transporting sections of the company’s aircraft from production sites around Europe to final assembly lines in France, Germany and Spain.

XL has several key physical changes from the current Beluga ST workhorse common in the skies above Deeside as they transport completed wings from Broughton to France.

The Beluga XL, is based on the A330 jetliner, it has an enlarged fuselage “bubble” section that is six metres longer and one metre wider than on the Beluga ST – an aircraft derived from Airbus’ earlier-production A300-600.

With this bigger “bubble,” the Beluga XL will be able to carry larger sections of Airbus aircraft between European production sites and to the final assembly lines in Toulouse, France and Hamburg, Germany – including a full wing-set for the A350 XWB’s latest A350-1000 version.

“Payload was the big driver for us,” explained Jean-Marc Passuello – leader of a cross-functional Airbus delivery team responsible for the development of major component assemblies. “We knew what the Beluga XL had to be able to carry, and that meant making some changes.”

“Among the physical differences between the Beluga ST and XL versions is the dorsal fin that connects to the vertical tailplane” added Olivier Maillard, delivery team leader for rear fuselage and dorsal fin.

On the Beluga ST, this component is triangular and manufactured as a single part – but to ensure stability for the larger Beluga XL, it was increased in size and produced in three parts with a distinctive “kink” in the diagonal.

According to delivery team leader Guillaume Pages, the need for stability also led to an updated horizontal tailplane. “We had to add a metre to each side using what we call extension boxes, and the auxiliary fins on the outside of the horizontal tailplane are a metre higher than those on the Beluga ST,” he said.

Pages’ team also added ventral fins as a completely new feature of the Beluga XL. Located along the bottom of the aft fuselage, they have the same stabilising function as the dorsal fin.

Final Assembly

Beluga XL’s lower fuselage is based on the Freighter version of Airbus’ A330-200 jetliner and is being built on the A330 final assembly line adjacent to Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in southwestern France.

Once a lower fuselage for Beluga XLs is completed on the final assembly line, it will be moved to Building L34 at Airbus’ Lagardère industrial zone adjacent to Toulouse-Blagnac Airport, where the build-up process into the outsized airlifter will take approximately 12 months per aircraft.

The five Beluga XL aircraft will provide an additional 30 percent in transport capacity for Airbus’ industrial network, joining the existing fleet of five A300-600ST Super Transporters.

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