Airbus says plans to build five new Beluga over-size transports have taken a step forward with the program reaching the end of the concept phase or design freeze.
The Beluga XL, which was launched in November 2014, will now move into the detailed design phase, Airbus said in a statement on Thursday (European time).
The five new Beluga XL aircraft will be based on the A330-200 freighter and powered with Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines. The first of the type is expected to enter service in 2019.
The head of Airbus’s Beluga XL program Bertrand George said the milestone “paves the way for a successful final assembly start in 2017”.
Airbus said the new aircraft would provide 30 per cent additional transport capacity, which would support the planned production rate increases of its aircraft models such as the A350.
Meanwhile, the existing Beluga fleet of five aircraft, which was based on the out-of-production A300, would be progressively retired through to 2025, Airbus said in November when it launched the Beluga XL program. The current fleet transports completed sections of an aircraft to Airbus’s final assembly lines in Toulouse, Hamburg and Seville.
Airbus currently produces 44 Airbus A320 family aircraft a month, and has previously announced plans to increase the rate to 50 a month from early 2017.
Meanwhile, the company is making 10 A330s a month currently. However, this will gradually reduce to six a month from the first quarter of 2016, ahead of the start of A330neo deliveries in the second half of 2017.
And the production rate of the A350 was forecast to ramp up to 10 a month by 2018, four years after the aircraft entered service with Qatar Airways. Airbus expected to deliver 15 A350s in 2015.
Overall length: 63.1m
Fuselage diameter: 8.8m
Wingspan (geometric): 60.3m
Wing area (reference): 361.6m2
BASIC OPERATING DATA
Engines: Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines
Range: 2200nm at max payload (53 tonnes)
Maximum take-off weight: 227 tonnes
Maximum landing weight: 187 tonnes
Maximum zero fuel weight: 178 tonnes