Airbus has announced that the first structurally complete airframe for the new BelugaXL, one of the most voluminous aircraft in existence, rolled out from its assembly hangar in Toulouse, France.
Derived from the Airbus A330-200 jetliner, this next-generation airlifter will be used to transport completed sections of Airbus aircraft among the company’s European production sites and to its final assembly lines in France, Germany and Spain.
Bertrand George, head of the BelugaXL programme said the BelugaXL’s bulging upper forward fuselage and enormous cargo area made it ‘hardly recognisable’ as the outsized airlifter version of the Airbus A330-200 jetliner.
“We have the A330 as a foundation, but many changes have been successfully designed, introduced into the aircraft and tested,” he remarked.
“Transforming an existing product into a super transporter is not a simple task.”
This initial BelugaXL will undergo a comprehensive testing programme in the coming months before making its maiden flight in mid-2018.
“We will perform bench tests in Toulouse and Hamburg, Germany – testing our systems on flight simulators and in laboratories” as well as using hydraulic jacks to simulate flight loads on full-scale copies of specific joints between the new upper bubble and A330’s lower fuselage,” Mr George continued.
“The data from these tests will be used to clear the aircraft for flight and, later on, to attain type certification,” the official pronouncement of the aircraft’s safety and airworthiness.”
Airbus, which launched the BelugaXL programme in late 2014 to address its increasing transport requirements, said work was already in progress to convert a second A330 into a BelugaXL.