First ‘whale-face’ BelugaXL takes flight

The first of five BelugaXL aircraft took off and landed at Toulouse-Blagnac, France, yesterday afternoon after successfully completing its maiden flight, which lasted four hours and 11 minutes.

CAPTION: BelugaXL number 1 takes off on its maiden flight. Airbus photo by H Goussé.

The aircraft is the first of five new BelugaXL, which will enter into service commencing next year to gradually replace the BelugaST transporters, has 30% more carrying capacity than its predecessor.

Following this first flight, the BelugaXL will now undergo some 600 hours of flight testing over the next 10 months to achieve type certification and entry into service later in 2019.

BelugaXL was launched as a programme in November 2014 to address Airbus’ own in-house transport capacity requirements to move more and larger aircraft components from disparate manufacturing facilities all across Europe.


They will operate from 11 destinations as Airbus’ method of transporting large aircraft components.

Five BelugaXL will enter service to 2023 to gradually replace the five BelugaST, the maiden flight of which occurred in 1994.

Based on an A330-200 Freighter, the BelugaXL is powered by Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines and features a lowered cockpit, and newly developed cargo bay structure and rear-end and tail, giving the aircraft its distinctive look.

In the cockpit for the maiden flight were captain Christophe Cail, co-pilot Bernardo Saez-Benito Hernandez and test-flight engineer Jean Michel Pin, with Laurent Lapierre and Philippe Foucault monitoring systems and performance at a flight-test-engineer’s station.


  • In February 2003, a BelugaST set one of several records for the type – longest-distance charter flight – by carrying a Tiger ARH and two NH90 helicopters from Marseille, France, to the Australian International Airshow at Avalon.
  • The original BelugaST was so named because it looked like a Beluga whale. The addition of the whale face on the new aircraft was deliberately designed to add to the illusion.
  • I know this is not a military story, but it was too cute not to use 😉







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Posted by Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

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