Beluga XL Airbus replaced the Airbus Beluga – A cargo aircraft

The Beluga XL airbus based on the Airbus A300 airliner is a large transport plane. After its entry, it replaced the Airbus Beluga in the movement of over-sized components, wings. The Beluga XL airbus made its first flight on 19 July 2018 and received the type certification on November 13, 2019.

Photo: Airbus Beluga XL

The airbus made the first operational flight on 9 January 2020 and started providing full-time service by January 20. The original Beluga was not produced much and only 5 planes were made. The same plane was modified to make the new Beluga XL. Although the program of modification was launched in November, the company announced the design on 16 September 2015.

The Beluga (Old version) are currently in service as the company plans to withdraw the aeroplane within the next few years. The life-span of the Beluga is still half-left as they have flown for only 8000 hours. The company wants to use the Beluga for civil or military operations. The old planes fly more than 5 times daily for six days a week.

The final assembling of the Beluga XL Airbus started in 2016 and finally delivered in September 2018. The company started the final assembling of the next airbus in December 2018. They also plan to final assemble the other three planes in the following three years. The first plane took more than two years but the company believes that the other Beluga XL Airbus will assemble faster than that.

The company tested the Beluga XL Airbus before it was completely assembled. In 2018 January, the company took the Beluga XL out without colouring and fitting the engine. After fitting the engine, the company tested the airbus. They had planned to fly the planes for less than 1000 years for testing. It passed tests on flight simulators, laboratories, fuel, ground, and flew to various European countries to get the certificate.

The first Beluga XL flew in January 2020 and the company plans to operate all the Beluga XL by the end of 2023. The company wants to replace all the older versions of Beluga before 2021. The new Beluga has 30% more capacity than the older version. It is 6.9 meters longer and 1.7 meters wider than the old plane. It can also lift more than 6 tonnes heavier load.

The Beluga XL Airbus has a capacity of 50,500 kg payload. Its length is 63.1 meters, wingspan is 60.3 meters and the height is 18.9 meters. The wing area is 361.6 square meters and the empty weight is 127,550 kg. The speed of the plane is 737 km/h and can travel up to 4300 km at the most payload.

Beluga XL Vs Dreamlifter

The Airbus Beluga XL and Dreamlifter have special cargo planes and a lot more similarities. But they are not the same plane so they do have a lot of differences as well. If we compare these two, there are a lot of dissimilarities between them. So, which one is bigger than the other?

dreamlifter cargo plane Dramlifter Boeing
Photo: Dream Lifter , Credit: Boeing

The answer to this is very simple and in short, the Dreamlifter is the bigger plane than the Beluga. The Dreamlifter is longer, higher, and has an even wider wingspan than the airbus. The length of Beluga is 63.1 meters which are shorter than that of Dreamlifter is 71.68 meters. The height of DreamLifter is 21.54 meters and that of Beluga is 18.9 meters. The Airbus’s wingspan is 60.3 meters while DreamLifter is 64.4 meters.

Although the Beluga is smaller in size, it has a bigger cargo hold. It makes the Airbus better as a transporter. Beluga’s cargo size is 2209 cubic meters while the Dreamlifter’s cargo size is 1841 cubic meters. The Beluga is not designed to go far and has a range of up to western Europe only. The Dreamlifter has almost double the range than the airbus.

The Dreamlifter was introduced in 2006 while the Beluga XL was introduced in 2017. The planes have a difference of 10 years and due to the latest technology, the Airbus may seem better. Yet if we compare the technology difference within the 10 years, the Dreamlifter almost beats the 2016 aeroplane.

Beluga XL Size

The Beluga XL consists of two Rolls-Royce Trent 700 turbofan engines. It also features a lower cockpit and colossal cargo bay. It is 63 meters long and 8 meters wide which is one more than Beluga in both cases. It has the largest cross-section of any cargo aircraft in the world. It can carry two XWB wings and has an additional 30% capacity than Beluga. 

Beluga XL Capacity

The new XL version has a capacity of six tons of more cargo than the original version. The cargo limit of the version is 53 tons. This is the weight of more than seven elephants. It is designed to fly more than 4 million miles per year. The empty weight of the Beluga XL Airbus is 127 tons. The max takeoff weight is 227 tons. This is one of the biggest cargo planes in the world.

Beluga XL Vs Beluga

The beluga XL airbus is the successor for Beluga. The successor of Beluga is a product of  2016 while the older version is a product of 1995. The 20 years between them makes a huge difference in terms of technology. However, when comparing these two cargo-carrying airbuses, the Beluga is considered better.

Airbus beluga xl plane
Airbus Beluga Arriving TLS, wikimedia.org

The new plane can carry larger sections of aircraft than the old plane by 30%. The payload is more in the new plane as well. The size also differs in terms of length and width of the plane as the Beluga XL plane is 1 meter longer than Beluga. The physical part, Dorsal fin is different for both the planes. In Beluga, it is triangular and manufactured as a single part. In Beluga XL plane, to ensure stability, it was increased in size and manufactured as the parts.

Apart from these few changes, auxiliary fins also differ. The fins in the Beluga XL airbus is a meter higher than it was in Beluga. To increase the stability, the Beluga XL plane has ventral fins. The fins along the bottom of the fuselage were not available in Beluga. The company will replace all the older Beluga with the new ones by 2021.

The Beluga XL Airbus, the successor of Beluga is one of the largest cargo airbus in the world. Airbus uses the XL to transport their airplane’s materials to various parts of the world. Although the distance which the XL will cover is very less, the Whale as it is called will help the company to expand a lot.

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