Photo: S. Ramadier/Airbus/

Airbus’ New Smiley Beluga Whale Plane Takes to the Skies

News Art + Architecture Airports + Flying
by Eben Diskin Jan 16, 2020

The highly anticipated BelugaXL plane is finally in business. Airbus’ new aircraft, designed to look like a beluga whale — and only the first of six such planes — made its first operational flight on January 9.

The design was voted on by Airbus employees, from a shortlist of six designs, with 40 percent of the votes going to the beluga-whale-inspired livery. The BelugaXL is the successor to Airbus’ existing Beluga transport line, which is mainly used to carry aircraft parts and oversized cargo. This new version is 22 feet longer than the existing model. It is as tall as a three-story building and has the largest cargo bay cross-section of all existing cargo planes.

Unfortunately, you won’t actually be able to travel aboard the beluga, as the plane serves solely as a super-cargo transporter plane right now. It specifically transports airplane parts to Airbus facilities across Europe. The BelugaXL can transport two A350 XWB wings in one go and the weight of seven elephants.

A version of this article was previously published on July 2, 2018, and was updated on January 16, 2020 with more information.

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