If you are looking forward to seeing one of the giant new Airbus Beluga XL aircraft take to the skies, you don't have much longer to wait.
Airbus announced this week that the first of the five new super transporters is well advanced in the build-up process.
Derived from the freighter version of Airbus’ A330-200 jetliner, the BelugaXL is six metres longer, one metre wider and has a payload lifting capacity six tonnes greater than the current Beluga A300-600ST.
At Toulouse-Blagnac in southwestern France – home to Airbus’ primary industrial facility – three-quarters of the no 1 Beluga XL’s structural assembly has been performed for the outsized aircraft.
Eric Belloc, who heads the BelugaXL final assembly activity, said all elements for the aircraft’s specially-designed tail section have now been received.
These are due to be integrated on the no 1 airframe once systems, mechanical and electrical integration – which currently is underway – is completed.
The first BelugaXL’s first take-off is scheduled for next summer, ahead of a 10-month flight test certification campaign.
BelugaXL is due to enter service in 2019.