Whale of a time: Airbus’ new BelugaXL takes its first flight
Airbus’ whale-themed BelugaXL cargo plane officially enters service
A giant cargo plane designed to cart around large aircraft components for Airbus has entered service. The three-story-tall BelugaXL is designed to replace an existing fleet of Airbus’ cargo planes, and gives the company’s carrying capacity for such operations a 30-percent boost.
The BelugaXL took to the air for the very first time in July of 2018, but this would be just the first of 200 test flights and 700 hours of airtime en route to a Type Certification, awarded by the European Aviation Safety Agency in November of 2019.
With a length of 63 meters (220 ft) and width of eight meters (26 ft), the BelugaXL has the largest cross-section of any cargo aircraft in the world. It can lift up to 51 tonnes (112,500 lb) into the air and carry that maximum payload across 4,000 km (2,485 mi).
The architecture of the BelugaXL is based on Airbus’ A330-200 Freighter and it is powered by a pair of Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines. The first of six BelugaXLs made its first operational flight on January 9, with the new planes to be introduced to work alongside their predecessors, the BelugaSL, until those are phased out by 2025.