BelugaXL took its first maiden flight from Toulouse Airport in France on 19th July. The test flight was a great success and has given the green signal for the further development of the Beluga series. The team believes that the BelugaXL will be fully functional and open for service by mid-2019. The name of the plane, Beluga, represents a species of the white whales. The aircraft is not only named after the whale but also shaped like it. This is perhaps the reason the plane is nicknamed “the whale of the sky.”
The front of the BelugaXL is painted with a smiling whale face. The aircraft also has an extra bubble section which gives it a unique appearance and a lot of resemblance to Beluga whale. Airbus chose the shape of a whale considering the aerodynamics. Engineers wanted to create a shape which can move smoothly cruise through the dense air. The air resistance intensifies as the speed of the object increases. The faster an object travels, the harder it gets to move it through the air.
The team of engineers at Airbus got inspiration from a whale because it is also a relevant case. It can move underwater even when it weighs tons and has a huge body. The engineers incorporated the whale’s body structure and tested it for aerodynamic simulations. After that, they were able to build a plane that weighs 227 tons and can carry 53 tons off the ground. BelugaXL is not the first cargo aircraft from Airbus. Previously, Beluga ST was also built and has 30% more payload capacity than a normal cargo plane.
Airbus believes that the BelugaXL will replace the whole Beluga ST planes by 2025. The overall dimensions of the BelugaXL are; 63.1 m-long and 18.9m-high with a wingspan of 60.3m. It is powered by the Rolls Royce Trent 700 turbofan engines. The engines cost around 530 million Pounds each and can create 316 KN of thrust. It seems like BelugaXL needs a whole fleet of pilots to fly it, however, the aircraft only needs three pilots to keep it in the air. The vision of BelugaXL was conceived first in 2014 and went into development stage in 2015. The aircraft is not assembled at one spot. There are assembly lines for the BelugaXL across Toulouse, France, and Hamburg, Germany. The plane has to go through 600 hours of flight test before entering into service. Airbus plans to build five such aircraft by 2023 which will operate from 11 different destinations to transport aircraft components.