Airbus freezes new Beluga XL design
The new Airbus Beluga, based on the A330-200 airframe, will have a cargo hold even larger than its predecessor’s A300-600.
Airbus has announced the freezing of the design for the new Beluga XL development programme, paving the way for the detailed design phase. On completion, this in turn will lead on to the production and testing phases, and finally to the first aircraft entering service in 2019.
Five new aircraft will be built to replace the existing five that now transport Airbus components between partner centres in Toulouse, Hamburg and Seville. The new design is based on the A330-200 airframe, whereas its predecessor was based on the earlier A300-600.
Airbus’ original transporter in the 1970s was the Super Guppy, a fleet of four modified Boeing Stratocruisers that served until the A300 replacement, with their pedigree occasionally called into question.
The new Beluga has an unprecedented fuselage diameter of 29ft, necessary to convey large A350XWB components, and it will also be able to transport two A350 wings together, for example.
Power will come from two Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines, enabling the Beluga XL to operate with a MTOW of 227t and be able to transport a payload of 53t for a distance of 2200nm. The new model is 6m longer and 1m wider than its predecessor, with a 6t payload advantage.
The new Beluga XL is anticipated to replace the A300-600ST Super Transporter over a six-year time frame. The fleet is operated by Airbus Transport Industries, a subsidiary of the manufacturer. Previous Belugas have also been used in disaster relief operations.
- Report by John King, photograph by H. Gousse/Airbus.
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