MIAMI — The newest transport aircraft to join the Airbus fleet, the BelugaXL, received type certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on Wednesday. The certification opens the path for the transport aircraft to enter service in early 2020.
The BelugaXL, which will offer a 30% increase in storage, is expected to allow for increased production in the years to come, serving as an integral feature of the European manufacturer’s industrial complex.
The newly-certified freighter will replace the aging A300-600ST (Super Transporter), also known as the Beluga, which has been in service since the mid-1990s. The new BelugaXL is larger than its predecessor, measuring seven meters longer and one meter wider than the original Beluga.
The XL will also offer a greater payload capacity than the ST, with the capability to carry two A350 XWB wings as opposed to the ST’s capacity of one wing. The newer model has the largest cargo bay cross-section of any transport aircraft in service, permitting a 51-ton payload.
The new Beluga’s performance is also superior to its precursor, with a range of 4,000 km (2,200 mi) with a maximum payload. The aircraft operates with 2 Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines, the same power source of the A330 model it is developed from.
The new freighter’s design is based on the A330-200 transport aircraft, reusing many of the original model’s components and equipment. Features that are new to the BelugaXL include a lower cockpit, cargo bay structure, rear-end, and tail.
The certification comes after a lengthy process which included 2 aircraft operating 200 individual flight tests, amassing over 700 flight hours.
Six BelugaXL aircraft are expected to be produced through 2023, replacing five original Beluga transporters. The new model will operate from 11 destinations across Europe, further extending Airbus’ manufacturing capabilities across the continent.