The BelugaXL’s greater size enables the new-generation airlifter to accommodate a set of A350 XWB wings, for example, speeding up their transport from the Broughton, UK production site to the programme’s final assembly line in Toulouse. The aircraft also can carry the A350 XWB’s largest fuselage section with room to spare.
“We are really impressed with the aircraft,” Sabo added. “The way it behaves is fantastic and I particularly like the livery – it feels like the aircraft is looking at me when I’m close to it!”
ATI will operate a combined ST/XL fleet until mid-2023 as the remaining five BelugaXLs enter service. Airbus’ programme, customer support, engineering and ATI teams will work together in supporting the start of operations and subsequent ramp-up, with a second BelugaXL to be delivered in mid-2020, followed by a third in early 2021.
Air transport is Airbus’ primary method for moving large aircraft components across its European production network – including sites in France, Germany, Spain and the UK – which is complemented by the company’s use of road, rail and sea.