The development milestone for Airbus’ next-generation oversize cargo airlifter Beluga XL core airframe has started its 18-month integration process in Toulouse, France.
Based on the airframe of the versatile A330 jetliner, this element was assembled earlier without a nose fuselage or tail assembly. However, both the nose fuselage and the tail assembly will be added during activity planned in 2017.
Integration of this massive airlifter will be performed inside the two-section L34 building at Airbus’ Lagardère industrial zone, which is adjacent to Toulouse-Blagnac Airport. In the initial 12 months of integration process, the airframe will be finished and its mechanical and electrical systems will be fitted at an integration station. For the remaining six months, the aircraft will be moved to another station for ground testing and engine installation.
“The coming year of final integration will be a series of small steps,” said Bertrand George, Beluga XL programme head . “The number of holes to be drilled and fasteners to be installed is far bigger than on any other Airbus aircraft. Sticking to schedule at each step is the key to being ready for first flight in 2018.”
Five Beluga XL airlifters are to be built, with the first to enter operational service in 2019. They will gradually replace the existing fleet of Beluga ST aircraft, which were derived from the shorter-fuselage A300. Once the first Beluga XL enters service, it will provide necessary support to Airbus’ production ramp.