The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has awarded Airbus Type Certification for its BelugaXL freighter based on the A330-200F platform. The aircraft is expected to enter service by early 2020, according to a release from Airbus.
Airbus unveiled the first completed BelugaXL in Toulouse in June 2018 (1824). A second unit (1853) was completed in April 2019. Although similar to the A330-200F production freighter, the cargo bay structure and rear-end tail of the BelugaXL were modified. Since the unveiling, the two Rolls Royce Trent 700-powered aircraft completed have completed more than 200 flight tests and logged more than 700 flight hours to nab the EASA cert.
The replacement program for the BelugaST was announced in November 2014, at which time Airbus said it would build a total of five units. Today the company said it would build a total of six BelugaXL freighters between 2019 and 2023, to gradually replace the current fleet of five BelugaST transporters.
Unlike the earlier Beluga ST that were based on the smaller A300-600, the XL boasts up to 30% greater capacity because of the larger fuselage dimensions of the A330-200. The BelugaXL is 1 meter longer in width and 7 meters longer in length, compared to its predecessor. This extra volume, Airbus says, will enable the Beluga XL to carry two A350 XWB wings at a time, compared to the single-wing-capacity of the ST.