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One of the largest aircraft in existence just got a crucial certification

Key Points
  • Airbus's new larger aircraft transporter receives a crucial rubberstamp from European authorities.
  • The BelugaXL is a highly modified version of the Airbus A330-200 jetliner
  • Airbus says the plane is on track to enter service in early 2020.
Airbus BelugaXL super transporter aircraft arrives for the first time at the company's wing assembly plant at Broughton, near Chester, Britain February 14, 2019.
Peter Powell | Reuters

Airbus's new BelugaXL aircraft has taken a big step towards full service after being awarded "Type Certification" from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

The super transporter is one of the largest aircraft in existence and is used to airlift completed sections of planes from different manufacturing sites in Europe to Airbus's final assembly lines in France, Germany and Spain.

A type certificate signifies that a particular category of aircraft is airworthy. Five new transporters are being built at an estimated cost of more than $1 billion, although Airbus has never confirmed that number.

Late Wednesday, Airbus confirmed it had received the crucial stamp of approval, meaning the plane should enter service by early 2020.

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The BelugaXL is six metres longer, one metre wider and holds a payload capacity six tonnes greater than the BelugaST transporter version it is replacing. Airbus said it will be able to transport both wings of an A350 XWB jetliner at once. The present BelugaST transporter can only carry one single wing per flight.

Launched in November 2014, the BelugaXL program is based on an A330-200 Freighter. The plane is powered by Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines.

Airbus says the transporter become an integral part of its supply chain as it operates from 11 destinations in Europe.

The first structurally complete Airbus BelugaXL transporter rolls out from its assembly hangar in Toulouse.
Source: Airbus