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BelugaXL takes to the air
BelugaXL first flight. © Airbus

BelugaXL takes to the air

The first BelugaXL took off this morning from Blagnac in Toulouse, France at 10:30 hrs local time, for its maiden flight over south-western France.

The first BelugaXL took off this morning from Blagnac in Toulouse, France at 10:30 hrs local time, for its maiden flight over south-western France. The aircraft is the first of five BelugaXL to enter into service later in 2019, gradually replacing the BelugaST transporters. It was rolled out in January.

The crew in the cockpit on board this flight comprised: Captain Christophe Cail, Co-Pilot Bernardo Saez-Benito Hernandez and Test-Flight Engineer Jean Michel Pin. Meanwhile, monitoring the aircraft systems and performance in real-time at the flight-test-engineer’s (FTE) station were Laurent Lapierre and Philippe Foucault.

The aircraft features the distinctive livery — beluga whale-inspired eyes and an enthusiastic grin — selected by Airbus employees in a company-wide vote conducted last year.

The BelugaXL was launched in November 2014 to address the transport and ramp-up capacity requirements for Airbus beyond 2019. Derived from the freighter version of Airbus’ A330-200 jetliner and powered by Trent 700 engines, the BelugaXL is six metres longer, one metre wider and has a payload lifting capacity four tonnes greater than the current Beluga A300-600ST.

To be operated by the Airbus Transport International (ATI) subsidiary, the fleet of five BelugaXLs will take over transporting complete sections of Airbus aircraft among the company’s production sites around Europe and to final assembly lines in France, Germany and Spain.

The BelugaXL will be able to transport both wings of the A350 XWB jetliner at once, instead of the single wing currently accommodated on the BelugaST.

The maiden flight kicks off a 10-month flight test certification campaign leading to planned service entry in 2019.

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