Last week, the first of five Airbus BelugaXL aircraft to fly landed at Toulouse-Blagnac, France after successfully completing its first flight lasting four hours and 11 minutes.

The BelugaXL program was launched in November 2014 to address Airbus’ transport capacity requirements in view of the A350 XWB ramp-up and Single-Aisle production rate increases. Five aircraft will be built between 2019 and 2023 to gradually replace the five BelugaST. The aircraft will operate from 11 destinations as Airbus’ method of transporting large aircraft components.

The plane, which weighs 125 tons, can carry up to 53 tons in the hold for a distance of more than 2,500 is equipped with narrow wings made from CFRP, covering an area of 361.6m² and a wingspan of 60.3 m. A single vertical fin with twin horizontal stabilizers is located in the tail section, fitted with a pair of auxiliary vertical tail plane end-fins. The aircraft is expected to provide Airbus with an additional 30 percent air transport capacity.

Based on an A330-200 Freighter, the BelugaXL is powered by Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines. The lowered cockpit, the cargo bay structure and the rear-end and tail were newly developed jointly with suppliers, giving the aircraft its distinctive look.

With the first flight now in the rear view mirror, the BelugaXL will now undergo some 600 hours of flight test over 10 months to achieve Type Certification and entry into service later in 2019.