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The AIRBUS BELUGAXL is possibly the most beautiful whale-shaped aircraft ever

Is it a whale or a plane? As it turns out, Airbus’ BelugaXL is both! Designed to look like a giant beluga whale, this aircraft has been turning heads since the day it was created. But how much do we really know about this remarkable “flying whale”? Let’s find out!

What is the Airbus Beluga XL?

The AIRBUS BELUGAXL is possibly the most beautiful whale-shaped aircraft ever
Image credits: J.V. Reymondon/Airbus.com

BelugaXL is a large transport aircraft based on the Airbus A330-200F. It’s designed to move massive aircraft parts around and is powered by Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines.

Given its extraordinary appearance, it is not surprising that this aircraft is one of the most popular aircraft today. However, the Airbus BelugaXL isn’t exactly the first of its kind. This is because it was built to replace the Airbus Beluga, a similar-looking aircraft that went into operation in the 1990s.

How was it developed?

The AIRBUS BELUGAXL is possibly the most beautiful whale-shaped aircraft ever
BelugaXL. Image credits: Airbus.com

Airbus, which originated as a pan-European airline consortium, has production centers across the continent. Each of these centers specializes in building individual aircraft sections which are then assembled at the final assembly site.

At first, Airbus used another unusual aircraft called the Super Guppy to transport aircraft parts. This aircraft was a highly modified 1940s-era Boeing Stratocruiser, which quickly proved unable to keep up with the company’s increasing production rates. As a result, Airbus decided to look for a replacement, and in the 1990s the original Beluga was put into operation.

However, despite the fact that the Airbus Beluga has a payload capacity of about 47 tons, by 2013 it became clear that even this aircraft would need an increase. As a result, the Airbus BelugaXL was born that is not only more efficient but also more formidable than its predecessor!

BelugaXL’s unique design

The AIRBUS BELUGAXL is possibly the most beautiful whale-shaped aircraft ever
Image credits: JB. Accariez/master films via Airbus.com

There is no doubt that the BelugaXL is one of the coolest aircraft ever to grace the skies. But what makes it unique? lets take alook. The newer BelugaXL is a derivative of the A330-200, which is larger and more powerful. As a result, it is six meters long and one meter wide, and has a load-lift capacity of six tons more than its predecessor. This means that the BelugaXL can carry two A350 wings instead of just one wing on the original Beluga.

The AIRBUS BELUGAXL is possibly the most beautiful whale-shaped aircraft ever
Image credits: Airbus.com

Certainly, based on these specifications alone, this aircraft deserves a place in the Aircraft Hall of Fame. However, there is another reason why this place is currently occupied. These, of course, are the beluga whale-inspired eyes and smile that she wears so proudly. But make no mistake, this design was no accident! The “Smiling BelugaXL” entry was actively selected by Airbus employees in a poll with 40% or more voting in favour.

Why has there been some fuss lately?

The AIRBUS BELUGAXL is possibly the most beautiful whale-shaped aircraft ever
Image credits: Airbus.com

Just about two years ago, in January 2020, the long-awaited Airbus Beluga XL entered full-time service by making its first operational flight. Since then, it has become a hot topic among aircraft enthusiasts and animal lovers alike. In fact, according to BelugaXL Program Head Bertrand Georges, even kids have come to love and recognize this very special aircraft!

However, this is only one part of the fuss this plane has created. As it turns out, Airbus now intends to lease Beluga planes, whose main job until now has been to fly around aircraft parts, to help other industries move their bulky cargo. This could then pave the way for more examples of “in-sourcing” in aviation.

Unfortunately for its fans, the Airbus BelugaXL isn’t really meant to carry passengers. However, it will still leave an imprint on many of our lives with the crucial role it plays in the manufacturing of commercial aircraft.

Smith

Tricare west is a global news publication that tells the stories you want to know.

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