Airbus has started amalgamating the core airframe of its first new Beluga XL cargo airlifter at its production johns in Toulouse, France.
During the first 12 months of the 18-month integration modify, the airframe will be completed, and its mechanical and electrical systems will be custom-made at an integration station.
The remaining six months will be dedicated to ground exam and engine installation activities.
“Sticking to schedule at each step is the key to being rapid for first flight in 2018.”
Beluga XL’s core airframe is an extract of an Airbus A330-200 freighter aircraft, which has already been structurally buttressed and was assembled last month without a nose fuselage or tail meeting.
Airbus Beluga XL programme head Bertrand George said: “The take year of final integration will be a series of small steps.
“The legions of holes to be drilled and fasteners to be installed is far bigger than on any other Airbus aircraft.
“Remain effective to schedule at each step is the key to being ready for first flight in 2018.”
Airbus is planning to construct a total of five Beluga XL airlifters, with the first to enter operational services in 2019.
Once completed, the aircraft will gradually replace the company’s occurring Beluga ST fleet, which was based on the shorter-fuselage A300.
Airbus noted that the aerostructure-specific components to be instated in the Beluga XL include enlarged upper fuselage, modified forward fuselage section with a belittled nose and cockpit, a large forward cargo door allowing ‘roll-on-roll-off’ loading soon onto the main deck, and others.
Image: Airbus begins Beluga XL freighter integration. Photo: courtliness of Airbus.