The first of six A330-based BelugaXL mega freighters entered service today—enabling Airbus to carry ever larger aircraft parts for production and make children giggle the world over. Began in November 2014, the BelugaXL first flew in the summer of 2018 and received its EASA type certificate last November. Airbus says the BelugaXL has “the largest cargo bay cross-section of all existing cargo aircraft worldwide. The BelugaXL can carry two A350 XWB wings compared to the BelugaST, which can only carry one.” Since the original BelugaST was based on the earlier A300, it’s no surprise that the XL is usefully larger. The 30 percent additional capacity comes from a fuselage 3 feet wider and 21 feet longer.
As with the ST, the BelugaXL takes advantage of many off-the-shelf A330 parts. “The BelugaXL is based on an A330-200 Freighter, enabling the re-use of existing components and equipment and is powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines,” says Airbus. “The lowered cockpit, the cargo bay structure and the rear-end and tail were newly developed jointly with partners, giving the aircraft its distinctive look.”
Payload is listed as just over 111,000 pounds with a maximum takeoff weight of just more than 500,000 pounds. Of course, that huge fuselage, most of which is unpressurized, causes the BelugaXL to cruise a bit more regally than its A330 brethren: Typical cruise is said to be a modest Mach 0.69, compared to M 0.82 for the A330. Still a lot faster than a train or a barge.