Airbus is building a new version of the 'Ugly Bug' super-transporter Beluga XL which will eventually replace manufacturer’s current fleet of A300-600ST Belugas in service since 1992. Airbus Beluga XL is set to enter into service in 2019.
The new cargo model is now one of the largest in the world and will have 30% more capacity. The Beluga XL will be 63 meters long with a wingspan of 60 meters and carry more than 50 tons of cargo. They plan to build five Beluga XL models and then over time phase out its current fleet of super-transporters.
Beluga XL is the third generation of Airbus transport aircraft. According to the company, “It was necessary to launch a new apparatus, the current ones arriving at the limit of capacity. Airbus had the choice to produce more current models, or to create a new one, from a more modern aircraft,”
Airbus uses its fleet of giant Beluga models to transport cargo, mainly for their other aircraft’s major components, such as complete wings and sections of fuselage.
The super-transporter carries parts from the factories where they’re built to final assembly lines in Germany, France and China.
"Our program is evolving. Today, the Beluga cannot load two wings of an A350 at the same time. We must send them one by one in the cargo bay, lying at 45 degrees. This doubles our transportation costs,” Bertrand George, director of the Beluga XL told Ouest France.
The sky beasts are essential to Airbus supply chain – flying six days a week, air transport is still less expensive and more flexible than moving the components by road.
When asked, why Airbus uses decentralized manufacturing model, director of aerospace at Cranfield University, Professor Iain Gray told BBC that "Airbus pioneered the system of having centres of excellence around Europe - now around the world. You've got skilled labour, shared investment, and the ability to draw in local expertise - the benefits of a distributed model are well proven."