Airbus has produced many different planes in their history. From the A300 and A310 to contemporary A330neo, A380, and A350 XWB, Airbus is a well-known passenger aircraft production company. However, one of Airbus’ most iconic planes is one that isn’t intended for passengers, but still serves a crucial role. On April 15, 2019, Airbus’ second Beluga XL took flight.
The Beluga line of aircraft serves a crucial role for Airbus. As a large transport aircraft, the main role for the Beluga family of aircraft is to transport aircraft parts and components around Airbus’ production chain. Currently, Airbus has five of the smaller Beluga aircraft in service, and expects to operate a total of six of the larger Beluga XL aircraft. These additional aircraft will help Airbus increase their production rate, especially that of the successful A350 XWB.
The Beluga is known for its iconic design. Also called the A300-600ST, the smaller Beluga will eventually cease to exist. Airbus plans to use the Beluga XL to replace the five existing smaller aircraft. The last of these Beluga aircraft are expected to fly in 2025.
Overall, the larger Beluga XL will help Airbus ramp up production and deliver more aircraft to customers. With the conclusion of the A380, Airbus can now focus on their existing lines while contemplating the next plane to enter their lineup.
The first Beluga XL flew in July of 2018. Airbus made some changes to the Beluga XL compared to the existing Beluga. All these aircraft are derived from Airbus’ successful A330 passenger aircraft. On the new Beluga XL, technical developments will help Airbus achieve their increased production goals.
First, Airbus’ Beluga XL planes feature a new lowered cockpit.
In addition, Airbus designed the Beluga XL to carry larger and heavier parts. The enlarged cargo bay area and modified tail and rear sections will help sustain the weight and size of these new parts. Much like the animal it is named after, the Beluga XL has a distinctive hump to its shape that is larger than the existing Beluga.
As final certification continues, Airbus expects the first Beluga XL that will enter service to be the second Beluga XL ever produced. That is, this aircraft in question will be the first Beluga XL to transport parts within Airbus’ company network. This Beluga XL is expected to enter service later this year. The second Beluga XL is powered by Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines.
Airbus went all in for this second Beluga XL aircraft. The aircraft bears a livery bearing similarity to actual beluga sea creatures. Onlookers will be quick to catch the iconic whale eyes and grin that can be found on many cartoon drawings of the sea creatures.
With these new Beluga aircraft, it will be interesting to see how much Airbus can ramp up their output of aircraft. It will be sad to see the original Beluga aircraft go, but with these new aircraft, it is no secret that Airbus is thinking big and preparing to continue mounting a challenge to Boeing. Time will tell if these Beluga XL aircraft pay off for Airbus.
What do you think about the Beluga XL? Do you like the livery? Let us know in the comments below!