Airbus Group NV will build five new Beluga transport planes based on its A330 widebody jet as the European plane maker seeks to secure its ability to meet increasing production demands.
The first of the new Beluga jets is due for delivery in mid-2019, the Toulouse-based company said Monday. Airbus’s existing Beluga fleet is based on heavily modified A300 jetliners that are no longer in production, forcing the switch to a newer model.
The unusually shaped Beluga jet is used by Airbus to ferry parts between its European production facilities including in the U.K., Germany, Spain and France. Airbus needs more capable and modern jets as it increases output for its A320 single-aisle planes and boosts production of the A350 long-range jet due for its first delivery next month.
Airbus is striving to re-use as many A330 components as possible on the new transport aircraft. “The distinctive looking lowered cockpit, the cargo bay structure and the rear-end and tail will be amongst the items which will be newly developed,” the company said. Airbus will work with a supplier that is yet to be named on the project.
Rival Boeing uses modified 747 jets as part of its production process for the 787 Dreamliner. Boeing calls its transport plane the Dreamlifter.
Airbus will phase out the A300-based Belugas, which first flew 20 years ago, through 2025, it said. The Belugas replaced the propeller-powered “Super Guppies,” based on Boeing planes.