Plane maker Airbus started the production of a new freighter at its Hamburg, Germany plant. The future aircraft named “Beluga XL” is slated to take to the air in mid-2019, says the manufacturer.
The aircraft resembles a giant whale with its big bubble above the cockpit and the over dimensioned fuselage. Official name of the project: “BelugaXL Airbus”. The future family member is based on
the A330 freighter, with a large re-use of 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 aircraft, powered by two Rolls Royce turbines, offers 12 percent more loading capacity compared to its forerunner model, a modified “Super Transporter” called
version of the Airbus A300F that first started service in 1995.
Favorable main deck dimensions
The decision is paramount for supporting the Airbus A350 XWB ramp-up and enable further aircraft production rate increases by delivering a growing flood of components to the assembly lines in Toulouse and Hamburg. It comes as result of increased market demand for both single aisle and wide body aircraft, particularly the A320 neo and the A350 series. This implies transporting large items like wings or tail units between the different production platforms run by the plane maker, including supplier sites that are part of the supply chain. With its larger fuselage cross-section, measuring 8.80 meters the BelugaXL beats the dimension of the existing Belugas by 1.09 m. It enables the new freighter to accommodate two wings of the A350 passenger jetliner on its deck at a time, compared to only one wing that can be loaded on board the current Beluga fleet.
The newcomer is capable of carrying 53 tons per flight and operate over a distance of 4,000 kilometers nonstop.
According to Airbus, the existing Belugas will be progressively retired through to 2025.
Available for commercial purposes?
In the past, Belugas were infrequently utilized in exceptional cases like natural disasters to transport relief goods or other commodities. However, the upcoming 5 units comprising fleet of the XL version will not be obtainable for commercial purposes, Media Relations Manager Marion Brochart of Airbus stresses: “We intend to use our new Beluga for Airbus purposes only. We are building this fleet based on our production growth and needs and won’t have spare ones available for other markets.”
So nothing competitor Boeing would have to worry about !
Which fate the 5 old Belugas are facing after being replaced by their larger sisters is left open by the manufacturer.