The Airbus BelugaXL Officially Takes Flight—And It Looks Just Like A Beluga Whale
You won’t be able to fly in it, but the whimsical BelugaXL will play a vital role in commercial air travel. The cheeky cargo plane is set to be one of the biggest aircraft in the sky and will be used to transport commercial aircraft parts and components from production sites in Europe to the assembly lines in France, Germany, and Tianjin, China.
While the BelugaXL first took flight in July of 2018, it required over 200 test flights and 700 hours of airtime before being awarded a Type Certification by the European Aviation Safety Agency in November of 2019.
The whale-themed aircraft spans 63 metres long and 8 metres wide, touting the largest cargo bay cross-section of any existing cargo plane across the world, with the ability to carry up to two A350 XWB wings compared to its predecessor, the BelugaST, which can only carry one.
According to Airbus, the BelugaXL is based on an A330-200 Freighter, which enables the reuse of existing components and equipment, while the cockpit and cargo bay structure were newly developed to give the plane its distinctive Beluga-shaped look. The aircraft is powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines, which allows for a payload of 51 tonnes and a range of 4,000 km.
But why the whale? The massive Beluga, which sports both a smile and a twinkle in its eyes, was chosen through a poll of 20,000 Airbus employees; the cheeky whale received over 40 per cent of the total votes.
Aside from the BelugaXL, Airbus’s current Beluga fleet includes five STs, which will eventually be phased out as more BelugaXL aircraft are completed.