The Airbus BelugaXL completed their maiden flight last Thursday, debuting in front of a crowd of over 10,000 people in Toulouse, France. It took flight over France, over the coast and mountainside for 4 hours and 11 minutes before landing.
Airbus’s new jet brings a smile to the skies – literally. It’s named the BelugaXL for its uncanny resemblance to the majestic mammal of the sea, the Beluga Whale. The planes front is painted with eyes and a smiling mouth to further match the resemblance.
This is the first of five that Airbus is expecting to have built by 2023. They are going to be used to phase out their existing BelugaST models. The BelugaST’s are currently used large aircraft pieces to their various assembly centers. The BelugaXL will also be used to shuffle aircraft components to other Europe based facilities. It will replace the Airbus A300-600ST, a modified version of the discontinues A300 model. It is capable of holding the wings of an A350, Airbus newest jet.
The BelugaXL features an oversized tail section with horizontal stabilizer fins. The plane’s “forehead” opens to accept cargo. The cockpit is seen when it opens, sitting below the cargo floor.
The jet can take flight weighing anywhere to a total of 227 tons. With a full load of more than 50 tons, it’s maximum range is 4,000 kilometers (2,485) miles.
Once the plane get their certification, the XL will take over missions performed with the ST. It will operate from 11 destinations, since this is the company’s method of transporting their large aircraft components across to assembly centers.
The plane will now go through 10-months of flight testing, hopefully resulting in the BelugaXL’s certification. If all goes well, Airbus will have the first BelugaXL in service in 2019. After that, they will hopefully have 5 in-service models by 2023.