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Whale of the Skies

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Whale of the Skies

In January, the first structurally complete airframe for the new BelugaXL rolled out from its assembly hangar in Toulouse, France.

The BelugaXL is one of the most voluminous aircraft in existence, and everything about it speaks to that fact. With a bulging upper forward fuselage and enormous cargo area, the BelugaXL is hardly recognizable as the outsized airlifter version of the Airbus A330-200 jetliner from which it is derived.

“We have the A330 as a foundation,” said Bertrand George, head of the BelugaXL programme, “but many changes have been successfully designed, introduced into the aircraft and tested. Transforming an existing product into a super transporter is not a simple task.”

This initial BelugaXL is expected to be flying by mid-2018. “The whole team is really looking forward to seeing its first flight and, of course, its smiling livery,” said George, referring to the supersized smile that will be painted across the ‘face’ of the transporter, the winning design of six options presented to Airbus employees for a vote in early 2017.

Before that can happen, the aircraft will undergo a months-long battery of tests after installation of its two jet engines, ensuring each of the BelugaXL’s systems function as intended. All the while, said George, “We will perform bench tests in Toulouse and Hamburg, Germany – testing our systems on flight simulators and in laboratories” as well as using hydraulic jacks to simulate flight loads on full-scale copies of specific joints between the new upper bubble and A330’s lower fuselage.

“The data from these tests will be used to clear the aircraft for flight and, later on, to attain type certification,” the official pronouncement of the aircraft’s safety and airworthiness, said George.

While the first structurally complete BelugaXL moves into its testing phase, the second A330 to be converted into a BelugaXL arrived on schedule in Toulouse to begin its integration process. George noted that with lessons learned from the production of the first transporter, the assembly time for the second is expected to be about two months shorter.

The BelugaXL programme was launched in November 2014 to address Airbus’ increasing transport requirements. At six metres longer, one metre wider and with a payload lifting capacity six tonnes greater than the BelugaST transporter version it is replacing, the BelugaXL will be able to transport both wings of the A350 XWB jetliner at once, instead of the single wing currently accommodated on the BelugaST. All told, five BelugaXLs are scheduled to enter service for Airbus’ airlift needs.

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BLOC Magazine

BLOC-Magazine-Summer-18.jpg (466 KB)As the demolition phase of our BLOC Grand Central project nears completion, we are focusing on a number of other sites in the UK and Europe. We are working hard to expand the BLOC presence in major city centres and transport hubs.

We are keen for more discerning travellers to experience BLOC's affordable luxury and learn how we are changing the way people use hotels.

The 18th issue of BLOC magazine explores Lisbon, recent winner of 'The World's Leading City Destination'. The Portuguese capital is a city where old customs and ancient history intermix with cultural entertainment and hi-tech innovation.

We also profile BLOC-sponsored, Jamie Chadwick, who has signed for the Williams F1 team as a development driver.

Staying with the motoring theme, we showcase the stunning new Aston Martin Valkyrie and Porsche's new electric offering.

Once again we hope that this magazine provides you with some insight and entertainment on your journey.

You can view all of the articles on this site or view an online FREE version of the magazine, here.

We’ll also be adding to and updating this site with more cool stuff that we find on our travels. Jump on board!

Your journey begins here.