The first BelugaXL has passed the Ground Vibration Test (GVT), a requirement for certification of the aircraft that paves the way towards its maiden flight in summer 2018.

The objective of this test is to measure the dynamic behaviour of the aircraft and confirm theoretical models of various flight conditions, such as manoeuvring, flying in gusty conditions and landing. The test data also helps predicting the amplitude of vibrations the aircraft can go through while operating and clear its flight enveloppe. Such demonstration proves that the plane has no risk of “flutter”, a phenomenon responsible for several crashes in the past, including Braniff Flight 542 and Northwest Flight 710.

The GVT of BelugaXL was performed by French Office national d'études et de recherches aérospatiales (ONERA) in collaboration with German Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) over eight testing days in Toulouse using several hundreds of external accelerometers while the aircraft was stimulated by external shakers or seismic exciters. Tests were conducted under two configurations - with an empty fuselage and laden. More than 600 sensors, 7,000 m of cables and 300 m of optical fibers were installed on the fuselage, empennage, engines and sails. ONERA and DLR were already responsible for testing the A320neo, A350-900 and A380.

As BelugaXL is a reduced program (only five planes to be built), the model used for ground testing is also the flight prototype. It had already received Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines and will now be powered on and proceed to taxi tests.

The BelugaXL was launched in November 2014 to address the transport and ramp-up capacity requirements for Airbus beyond 2019. "Our program is evolving. Today, the Beluga cannot load two wings of an A350 at the same time. We must send them one by one in the cargo bay, lying at 45 degrees. This doubles our transportation costs,” Bertrand George, director of the Beluga XL told Ouest France. The new oversize air transporter is based on the A330-200 Freighter, with a large re-use of existing components and equipment. The first five BelugaXLs will fly in summer 2018 and enter into service in 2019.