Airbus has decided to increase its Beluga transporter fleet from current 5 to 10, to meet the production ramp-up for the new generation A350 XWB and other aircraft.
The company has launched the development and production of the new Belugas based on the Airbus A330 widebody jetliner rather than the A300 airframe used for the first five.
The new A330 based Beluga's will largely re-use the existing components and equipment. The distinctive looking lowered cockpit, the cargo bay structure and the rear-end and tail will be amongst the items which will be newly developed.
The first of the five new Belugas will enter in service in mid-2019. The existing Beluga fleet will operate in parallel, and will be progressively retired through to 2025.
The "Beluga", is Airbus’ unique method for transporting large aircraft components– between company production sites in Europe. Airbus had already l launched “the Fly 10000” project aiming at doubling the current Beluga capacity by 2017. However the current capacity is limited and the new Beluga fleet will close this capacity gap.
The present Beluga can carry a payload of 47 metric tonnes (103,616 lb.) over a range of 900 nautical miles (1,667 km). The A330 based Beluga will have higher payload capacity and range.