Posted: Fri 21st Jul 2023

BelugaXL: Sixth and final ‘gentle giant’ takes to the skies for the first time

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Jul 21st, 2023


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Airbus celebrated the maiden flight of its sixth and final BelugaXL today, marking a notable milestone in its production schedule.

The flight comes five years after the first BelugaXL took to the skies.

Based on the Airbus A330-200 model, the six-strong XL fleet is set to replace the Beluga ST fleet. The latter has been a regular sight in the skies above Deeside for over two decades.

XL6 sports the same Airbus tail colours and logo as XLs 1 to 5. However, it also bears the prominent branding, ‘Also flying outsize cargo to your destination.’

The most noteworthy change is the addition of a winking eye to the Beluga’s smiley face on the forward fuselage. This lends an extra touch of charm to its distinctive appearance.

The aerospace giant announced on its Facebook page today: “A big week for our BelugaXL! As our 6th and final gentle giant takes to the skies for the first time, we also celebrate 5 years since the first flight of our much-loved first outsized super transporter!”

Airbus expressed their anticipation for the aircraft’s contributions in flying parts between Airbus production sites and supporting outsized cargo missions.

The company concluded the post by sharing their excitement, saying, “We can’t wait to see her join her XL siblings!”

Originally, Airbus planned to build five BelugaXLs, each equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines, to replace the older A300-600ST Beluga fleet. However, they later ordered a sixth.

Launched in late 2014 to aid the A350 ramp-up and other production rate increases, the BelugaXL made its maiden flight in 2018.

The XL made a memorable debut at Airbus Broughton on Valentine’s Day 2019.

After securing the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) airworthiness authority’s type certification in November 2019, the first BelugaXL entered service in January 2020.

By the end of 2023, the six BelugaXLs will have replaced the current BelugaST fleet.

The improved BelugaXL offers 30% more transport capacity than its predecessor, the BelugaST, thanks to its seven-metre-longer and one-metre-wider dimensions.

This considerable size allows it to accommodate two A350 jetliner wings, as opposed to the BelugaST’s single-wing capacity.

Like the BelugaST, the BelugaXL fleet will operate across 11 European destinations, assisting Airbus in upholding its production and delivery commitments.

The BelugaXL, with a maximum payload of 51 tonnes and a range of 4,000 km, stands ready to redefine the standard for oversized air cargo transport and pave the way for Airbus’s industrial capabilities.

 

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