BelugaXL, the new supersize transporter from Airbus performed its maiden flight in France.
Freshly painted with a huge smiling face, the first BelugaXL took to the sky from Toulouse-Blagnac airport at 9.30am (France time).
The maiden flight kicked off a 10-month, 600-hour flight test certification campaign leading to planned service entry in 2019.
The plane's livery, chosen by Airbus employees, includes a whale-style nose cone, sparkling blue eyes and a smiling mouth.
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"The six designs we proposed for consideration by employees respected our brand identity while running from the conventional to the unconventional, even adding a touch of fun," Tim Orr, Airbus' Head of Branding, explained.
Starting in mid-2019, the BelugaXL will gradually replace the existing five-member Beluga ST fleet – which is used for carrying complete sections of Airbus aircraft from different production sites around Europe including wings from Broughton to the final assembly lines in Toulouse, France and Hamburg, Germany.
The Beluga XL is designed to carry six tonnes more payload than the current Beluga Transporters seen landing at Broughton several times a day.