MIAMI — The first section of the giant new Airbus’ Beluga XL Super Transporter has arrived to the Airbus A330 Final Assembly Line in Toulouse, France.

The first metal cut took place one year ago in Spain’s Aernnova, after completing the detailed design phase. Airbus expects to start the assembly in December, ahead of the original early 2017 schedule.

Launched in November 2014 as a replacement of the aging A300-600ST Beluga Super Transporters, and to cope with the logistics as the aircraft production rates increase, the Beluga XL is based on the A330-200 freighter, from which takes most of its components and equipment.

The new generation of Beluga Super Transporters will be powered with Rolls Royce Trent 700s, one of the engine options available in the current Airbus A330 program, and will incorporate newly-developed elements such as a lowered cockpit, cargo bay structure, and rear and tail sections.

Nicknamed the Beluga, the A300-600ST, was designed specifically to replace the Super Guppy (a converted Boeing 377 Stratocruiser) in Airbus’ own industrial system. Since 1996, the Belugas have been used for carrying complete sections of Airbus aircraft from different production sites around Europe to the final assembly lines in Toulouse, Seville and Hamburg.

According to Airbus, the first Beluga XL aircraft is planned to enter into service by mid-2019 – operating in parallel with the existing five-aircraft A300-600ST fleet, which is to be progressively retired through 2025.