Air transportation these days can now be a rather underappreciated topic to cover paired with the 737 max crisis and also other stories surrounding engine delays. However last month, the Airbus Beluga XL gained its European Union Aviation Safety Agency or more commonly referred to as EASA.
By acquiring this certification the aircraft can now finally enter transportation service. Through introducing the Beluga XL, Airbus can now offer 30% extra transport capacity in various aircraft programs that has already started running. However with one entering service now, being certified in 2020, it doesn’t just stop there. In fact airbus will work on additional aircraft from now through to 2023, the exact amount is quoted at being a five.
The Beluga XL is the successor to the existing Beluga ST, however that was also known as the A330 600ST with the ST standing for super transporter. You can imagine why simplifying it to Beluga ST was a lot easier for many others to say.
With the Beluga XL entering service right now, it will mean that the XL and the ST will work hand in hand for some time before eventually the older Beluga STs are completely phased out in favor of the new XL variant.
A Beluga, essentially is a flying whale, what’s its actual purpose you may be asking? Well, much like the Dreamlifter with Boeing and some other cargo transporters, but the Beluga XL will be used throughout Europe mainly moving sections of a future Airbus aircraft around to different production sites.
Airbus has bases and production sites across all of Europe, with the most famous one a being in Toulouse, France at the moment. They also have one in Hamburg, and have also been quoted saying that they will see it fly out of multiple other destinations.
In a press release, they mentioned just a few of the benefits the jet has over the Beluga ST. The Beluga XL can carry two A350 XWB wings compared to the Beluga ST, which can carry only one. With a maximum payload of 51 tons, the Beluga XL has a range of 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles).
Beluga XL also has a modern updated controls and features which will benefit pilots and of course operator Airbus. In their press release they further went on to say, the Beluga XL is the latest addition to Airbus’ transportation portfolio. While air transport remains the primary for transporting large aircraft components. Airbus also uses a road, rail and sea transport to move parts between its production sites.
While the Beluga XL may be ready now, its road to eventual certification was certainly not the smoothest thing in history. In fact, it was deemed some 7 years ago, in 2013, that ‘the future of the Belugas were actually concerning.’ Airbus realized very quickly the demand for their jets were growing, and they couldn’t handle that demand, that’s when a new Beluga was indeed explored. However, it took some time for it to finally be announced that the plan would indeed be going ahead. Some years later, lots of testing, lots of test flights, and a whole lot more, we see it here today.