Airbus Beluga XL Makes First Flight.
Whale Of A Plane: Airbus Beluga XL Makes First Flight.
The Airbus BelugaXL, built to transport large aircraft pieces, took off on its first flight Thursday from France's Toulouse-Blagnac Airport. A. Tchaikovsky Airbus.
It's built for oversize cargo, but it also sports a smile: The Airbus BelugaXL took off on its first flight on Thursday, creating a unique sight as the jet with the bulbous upper half rolled down the runway.
The BelugaXL's paint job "features beluga whale-inspired eyes and an enthusiastic grin," the aircraft company says. That whale flew over southern France, soaring over the coast and mountainside.
The jet is the first of a handful that Airbus will use to shuttle large aircraft components between its manufacturing facilities in Europe. Crucially, its expansive cargo area — the fuselage is nearly 30 feet in diameter — can carry two wings for the Airbus A350 jetliner.
Based on an A330 cargo plane, the BelugaXL features an oversized tail section, with a large horizontal stabilizer and fins.
To accept cargo, the plane's "forehead" (in keeping with the whale metaphor) hinges open, revealing a cavernous opening above the cockpit — which sits below the cargo floor.
The jet is capable of taking off with a total weight of 227 tons. Carrying a full load of more than 50 tons, the lumbering plane's maximum range is 4,000 kilometers (about 2,485 miles).
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