First BelugaXL Rolls Out

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The BelugaXL, the extra-large and unique cargo aircraft built by Airbus to transport huge aircraft sections among its various production sites in Europe, has rolled out from its assembly hangar in Toulouse, France, for the first time, this month, Airbus announced on Tuesday. The airframe is now structurally complete, the company said. It’s the first of five aircraft now under construction, and is expected to fly for the first time by this summer. The new airplanes will be bigger than the BelugaST transporters they are replacing. The ST can carry only one wing at a time for the A350 XWB jet, but the XL can transport both wings at once.

The aircraft is based on the Airbus A330-200 jet, with a highly modified fuselage. “We have the A330 as a foundation,” said Bertrand George, head of the BelugaXL program. “But many changes have been successfully designed, introduced into the aircraft and tested. Transforming an existing product into a super transporter is not a simple task.” The BelugaXL is about 20 feet longer and 3 feet wider than the BelugaST, and will be able to lift about 6.6 tons more payload. Five BelugaXLs are scheduled to enter service for Airbus’ airlift needs. Workers have now begun to build the second aircraft.

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