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Airbus rolls out first BelugaXL transporter

The first Airbus BelugaXL outsized cargo transporter aircraft has rolled out sporting a special Whale livery from Airbus'Toulouse-Blagnac final assembly line in southwestern France.

The BelugaXL was launched in November 2014…

The first Airbus BelugaXL outsized cargo transporter aircraft has rolled out sporting a special Whale livery from Airbus'Toulouse-Blagnac final assembly line in southwestern France.

The BelugaXL was launched in November 2014 to address the transport and ramp-up capacity requirements for Airbus beyond 2019.

Derived from the freighter version of Airbus’ A330-200 jetliner, the BelugaXL is six metres longer, one metre wider and has a payload lifting capacity six tonnes greater than the current Beluga A300-600ST.



With a large re-use of existing components and equipment, the Beluga XL will be powered with Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines.

When operational, the fleet of five BelugaXLs will take over transporting complete sections of Airbus aircraft among the company’s production sites around Europe and to final assembly lines in France, Germany and Spain, providing Airbus with an additional 30 percent extra transport capacity.

The first BelugaXL’s first take-off is scheduled for next summer, ahead of a 10-month flight test certification campaign. The second aircraft is in final assembly process and the remaining three airlifters will be produced at a rate of one per year.

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

The Beluga XL’s other aerostructure-specific components are provided by external suppliers, including the significantly enlarged upper fuselage, the modified forward fuselage section with a lowered nose and cockpit, a large forward cargo door allowing “roll-on-roll-off” loading directly onto the main deck, and a pair of auxiliary vertical tailplane end-fins.

A large “bubble” airframe section added to the fuselage’s lower portion takes the Beluga XL’s diameter from 5.6 metres for an A330 up to 8.8 metres. The cockpit has been lowered to make space for a main deck with direct cargo loading/unloading capabilities above it.



Increasing the Beluga XL’s volume by 30 percent compared to the existing Beluga ST will make the new airlifter much more cost effective. Further enhancements are to reduce the time needed for unloading, refuelling and reloading the aircraft while making its stopovers at locations across the Airbus production network.

Among the physical differences between the Beluga ST and XL versions is the dorsal fin that connects to the vertical tailplane.  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.

The need for stability also led to an updated horizontal tailplane. 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.

Featuring one of the most voluminous cargo holds of any aircraft today, be it civil or military, the current fleet of five A300-600ST Super Transporter aircraft named Beluga, carries complete sections of AIRBUS aircraft, produced at various sites around Europe, to the final assembly lines in Toulouse, Hamburg and Seville.

The fleet of Beluga is operated by Airbus Transport International (ATI), an Airbus subsidiary airline.