In odd and weird planes in the air, Airbus’s Beluga does take a lot of beating. It’s next generation variant – the BelugaXL is currently being built in Toulouse, with Airbus releasing a picture of it today.
As you can see, the BelugaXL is looking more like… well… a very outsized plane than a selection of parts (based on the Airbus A330). One of the defining features of the plane – the main cargo door – is due for fitting in Mid-November.
Parts are coming together on it – and recently received parts are being mated on, including the specially designed horizontal tail plane, the tail cone and the vertical tailplane.
Electrical and mechanical systems are being integrated too, with planes to have electrical power-on for the plane by the end of the year. The company intents to start ground tests in early 2018 and flight tests in the 3rd Quarter of 2018.
Integration on the second BelugaXL’s will commence in the near future.
Once the first flight is complete, this aircraft will be used in the flight test campaign, which is due to last 10 months.
As alluded to earlier – the BelugaXL is based on the A330 – specifically the A330-200 Freighter. Two big changes will be the that it’s longer (six meters longer) and can carry more (a full six tonnes more). They will join the existing Beluga fleet (based on the Airbus A300-600ST) in shipping components between Airbus’s factories around Europe, and to the final assembly lines in France, Germany and Spain.
It’s unlikely you or I will ever fly aboard this beast of an aircraft – but keep an eye out for them – they can be found at Airbus facilities… and of course at Toulouse Airport…
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