FARNBOROUGH: Airbus Beluga XL touches the sky for the first time

The Airbus A330-743L Beluga XL has successfully performed its maiden flight!

The aircraft departed Toulouse and was in the air for 4h 11min, where it completed basic handling tests and system validation. It returned after a low flypast at 14:14 local time.

Here are the members that were onboard this special flight:

Cockpit crew:

  • Captain Christophe Cail
  • Co-Pilot Bernardo Saez-Benito Hernandez
  • Test-Flight Engineer Jean Michel Pin.

Monitoring the aircraft systems and performance in real-time at the flight-test-engineer’s station:

  • Laurent Lapierre
  • Philippe Foucault

After taking off and climbing to a suitable altitude, the crew onboard reported no problems and stated the aircraft felt marvelous to fly.

This first flight unlocks the short flight-test campaign that Airbus has lined up for the aircraft.

The campaign is scheduled to take only 600 hours over a 10 month period before entering service in 2019.

Five aircraft will be built and all will enter service around the 2023 time frame.

For now, Airbus has not provided detailed plans on what they’re going to do with the A300-600ST Belugas but the rough plan is to keep them in service until they deem them unnecessary or too old. This will ensure entry into service of the Beluga XL is smooth and the A300 Beluga can focus on optimal missions such as narrow body production.

With the aircraft being launched in 2014, the ultimate goal was to increase A350 production. The Beluga XL can carry two A350 wings at a time, rather than the one on the Beluga. This first flight takes Airbus a step closer to ramping up its incredibly popular A350.

Here are some photos from the first flight:

Beluga XL and Beluga display and photo opportunity

Welcome back to the crew

Post-flight celebrations

Stick around for all Farnborough coverage!