On July 19th 2018 the Airbus A330-700XL F-WBXL took to the skies for the first time. The aircraft, more commonly referred to as the BelugaXL, took off from Toulouse-Blagnac in France at 1030 local time. The flight crew was Captain Christophe Cail, Co-Pilot Bernardo Saez-Benito Hernandez, and Test-Flight Engineer Jean Michel Pin. Additional flight test engineers were Laurent Lapierre and Philippe Foucault. The aircraft landed back at Toulouse-Blagnac at 1441 local time. This video about the BelugaXL was uploaded to YouTube by Airbus.
The BelugaXL will now undergo 600 hours of flight testing over 10 months to gain Type Certification and entry into service later in 2019. The BelugaXL program was initiated during November of 2014 to address the transport and ramp-up capacity requirements, such as the A350 XWB ramp-up and single-aisle jetliner production rate increases, for Airbus beyond 2019. The new oversize air transporters are based on the A330-200 freighter variant and share a large percentage of existing components and equipment with that aircraft.
Airbus will build a total of five A330-700XL aircraft between 2019 and 2023 to gradually replace the five BelugaST A300-600ST transporters now in service. BelugaXLs will operate from 11 locations around Europe to transport large aircraft components to final assembly plants in France and Germany. The BelugaXL is powered by Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines. The lowered cockpit, the cargo bay structure, aft fuselage sections, and empennage were newly developed jointly with suppliers, giving the aircraft its distinctive look. Nice paint job too!
Bonus: Airbus Beluga XL Fun Facts uploaded to YouTube by Airbus.