The first of Airbus’ five new Beluga XL airlifter “giants” will begin taking shape early next year, initiating the creation of a new jetliner fleet to transport complete sections of the company’s aircraft from production sites around Europe to final assembly lines in France, Germany and Spain.
Beluga XL’s lower fuselage will be the same as the Freighter version of Airbus’ A330-200 jetliner and is to be built on the A330 final assembly line adjacent to Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in southwestern France.
The Beluga XL’s other aerostructure-specific components are provided by external suppliers, including the significantly enlarged upper fuselage, the modified forward fuselage section with a lowered nose and cockpit, a large forward cargo door allowing “roll-on-roll-off” loading directly onto the main deck, and a pair of auxiliary vertical tailplane end-fins.
Once a lower fuselage for Beluga XLs is completed on the final assembly line, it will be moved to Building L34 at Airbus’ Lagardère industrial zone adjacent to Toulouse-Blagnac Airport, where the build-up process into the outsized airlifter will take approximately 12 months per aircraft.
The five Beluga XL aircraft will provide an additional 30 percent in transport capacity for Airbus’ industrial network, joining the existing fleet of five A300-600ST Super Transporters – which are based on the legacy A300 jetliner, and were given the original “Beluga” moniker because of their resemblance to the white whale of the same name.