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First BelugaXL transport airplane rolls off assembly line

Nr 1 in the test phase, n.2 into the integration

The first structurally complete airframe for the new BelugaXL airplane rolled out from its assembly hangar in Toulouse, France this month. Once operational, a fleet of these next-generation airlifters will be used to transport completed sections of Airbus aircraft among the company’s European production sites and to its final assembly lines in France, Germany and Spain.

It is one of the most voluminous aircraft in existence, and everything about it speaks to that fact. With a bulging upper forward fuselage and enormous cargo area, the model is hardly recognizable as the outsized airlifter version of the A-330/200 jetliner from which it is derived.

This initial unit is expected to be flying by mid-2018. 

Ground testing for the No. 1 BelugaXL before first flight

Before that can happen, the aircraft will undergo a months-long battery of tests after installation of its two jet engines, ensuring each of its systems function as intended.

While the first structurally complete BelugaXL moves into its testing phase, the second A-330 to be converted into a BelugaXL arrived on schedule in Toulouse to begin its integration process. It noted that with lessons learned from the production of the first transporter, the assembly time for the second is expected to be about two months shorter.

The programme was launched in November 2014 to address Airbus’ increasing transport requirements. At six metres longer, one metre wider and with a payload lifting capacity six tonnes greater than the BelugaST transporter version it is replacing, the XL version will be able to transport both wings of the A-350XWB jetliner at once, instead of the single wing currently accommodated on the BelugaST. All told, five XLs are scheduled to enter service for Airbus’ airlift needs.

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