The new Beluga XL Airbus began to take shape. The manufacturer recently released the first images of the structure and components of the aircraft, which is based on the A330-200, in the assembly phase. According to the company, the process must be completed in about 18 months at the plant in Toulouse, France.
The Beluga XL will be the successor to the current Beluga ST (Super Transporter), the exotic cargo jet that Airbus uses to transport components of aircraft under construction between its facilities across Europe. Airbus claims that the capacity to carry loads will be increased by 30%, compared to the current model, based on the old A300.
As Airbus explained, the Beluga XL’s central fuselage has already had the reinforced structure and nose and tail will be built this year. These two parts, as in Beluga ST, are precisely the parts with more different and complex formats. It is also scheduled for this year the installation of the electrical system and engines.
“The coming year of final integration will be a series of small steps,” said Beluga XL programme head Bertrand George. “The number of holes to be drilled and fasteners to be installed is far bigger than on any other Airbus aircraft. Sticking to schedule at each step is the key to being ready for first flight in 2018″, he added.
Airbus plans to build five Beluga XLs, with the first coming into service from 2019. According to the manufacturer, the new models will gradually replace the Beluga ST fleet, which also consisted of five aircraft, in service since 1995.