Airbus Completes BelugaXL Fleet with Final Aircraft Joining ATI

The final BelugaXL, often referred to simply as BXL, has officially joined the Airbus Transport International (ATI) fleet. This marks the culmination of the aircraft’s role as a test platform since 2018 and the completion of the six-aircraft fleet intended to enhance the company’s logistic capabilities across its European manufacturing network.

The BelugaXL is an evolution of the A300-600ST, affectionately known as the original ‘Beluga’. This newer model boasts a 30% increase in payload capacity, a key factor in Airbus’ strategy to ramp up production rates. Constructed in Toulouse, France, these aircraft play a crucial role in transporting sub-assemblies and components between Airbus’ production sites in France, Germany, Spain, and the UK, achieving an average turnaround time of just 70 minutes due to advanced loading facilities.

The project, which began in 2014, aimed not only to develop a new aircraft but also to foster a culture of innovation and efficiency among the teams involved. The development process centralized around 1,000 engineers and suppliers, which facilitated quicker decision-making and process simplification. This strategic co-location and the reuse of existing parts and principles from other Airbus platforms enabled the BXL to progress from concept to its inaugural flight within five years.

Bertrand George, the leader of the BXL’s development, reflected on the project’s challenges and achievements. “We created the BelugaXL, but also what we called the BXL spirit – making the impossible possible,” he stated. Despite the ambitious goal to halve the original development costs and deliver the first aircraft, certified as a standard A330ceo, within a tight timeline, the team succeeded. “Our instructions were to halive the BXL’s original development cost, and deliver the first aircraft – certified as a normal A330ceo – within five years,” Bertrand recalled, highlighting the freedom the team had to explore innovative approaches.

The emotional impact of the project’s success was palpable for those involved. “What was a truck in the morning was an aircraft by the afternoon,” Bertrand remarked, encapsulating the transformative journey from concept to reality. This experience, he noted, would provide valuable insights and benefits for future Airbus programs across various business units.

With the BelugaXL fleet now fully operational, Airbus looks set to continue strengthening its industrial operations, ensuring efficient intra-company logistics and supporting the broader goals of increased production and innovation within the aerospace sector.

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