Airbus’s Beluga aircraft is named after the Arctic whale that it resembles, and just in case anyone was in any doubt about just how similar the two look, the plane maker recently gave its new BelugaXL aircraft the cutest makeover ever.
According to Airbus, 20,000 employees were allowed to vote on six different liveries, with 40 percent choosing the smiley whale face as their favorite.
The company recently tweeted a short video, complete with several time-lapse sequences, showing the new livery being applied to its very first BelugaXL aircraft.
— Airbus (@Airbus) July 3, 2018
The enormous and unusual-looking plane has been in service for the last 20 years, flying huge aircraft components such as fuselage sections, wings, and tails from European suppliers to Airbus’s assembly plants in Toulouse, France, and Hamburg, Germany.
Airbus decided to build the largest Beluga to date — the aptly named BelugaXL — to ramp-up capacity requirements for the company beyond 2019.
“The new oversize air transporters are based on the A330-200 Freighter, with a large re-use of existing components and equipment,” Airbus explains on its website, adding that the first of five BelugaXLs will undergo test flights this summer before entering into service in 2019.
The front of the 184-foot-long (56 meters) Beluga opens up, allowing cargo to be loaded into the cavernous “bubble” space. The plane’s cockpit is placed lower than usual in order to avoid the need to disconnect electrical, hydraulic, and flight control systems every time cargo is loaded and unloaded.
Compared to the current Beluga, the new XL version can take 6 tons of extra cargo, increasing the limit to 53 tons. It’s also 20 feet (6.1 meters) longer and 3 feet (1 meter) wider than its predecessor, allowing Airbus to make further efficiency improvements when it comes to moving large airplane parts.
The new design will, for example, be able to carry two Airbus A350 wings instead of just the one as with the current Beluga.
It’ll also be able to transport sections of the double-decker A380 — currently the world’s largest passenger plane — allowing the aircraft manufacturer to simplify some of its up-to-now highly complex logistical operations that involve driving the A380’s wings and fuselage through the narrow streets of French villages on their way to the Airbus assembly site in Toulouse.