This week, Airbus gave us a glimpse into the production process as the company works to build five new Airbus BelugaXL super transporters.
What is a super transporter? They are these massive cargo transport aircraft that can carry oversized aircraft components. For example, they can transport complete sections of Airbus aircraft made at various sites around Europe to the assembly line. The tactic helps speed final assembly.
The company currently has five regular Belugas in operation, but it plans to have the XL join them in the air by 2019 — although the regular Belugas will be progressively retired by 2025.
The Beluga XL is 6.95 m longer, 1.66 m taller, and will have 30% more capacity than the previous generation. The XL will also expand the payload lifting capacity by six tons.
Before they fly, the BelugaXLs will need power. According to the company, the power-on process should begin by the end of this year. The company is currently working on systems, mechanical, and electrical integration, and the tail section will be added soon after that.
Next, the company will start work on adding the front main deck cargo door as soon as December.
Production is taking place at Airbus's primary industrial facility in southwestern France, and nearly 75% of the first XL's structural assembly has been completed.
By next summer, Airbus hopes to begin the lengthy flight test certification, which will take about ten months. The company has been working on the BelugaXL since November 2014, but once the first two get in the air, the company thinks that it can produce one XL per year. Hopefully, like their predecessors, they'll be able to last at least 30 years.