The BelugaXL has finally flown. At the Farnborough Airshow, on July 19, 2018, Airbus's massive new transport aircraft flew for four hours and 11 minutes on its maiden voyage.
The aircraft was built to be big enough to transport large aircraft components that are ready for assembly. For a bit of scale, the front hatch was opened to reveal the two test pilots alongside three test flight engineers (who look tiny in the 8.8 m-wide fuselage).
The first BelugaXL recently pulled out of the paint shop to unveil its new livery, a giant, smiling beluga whale. The design was chosen by some 20,000 Airbus employees.
The BelugaXL is the first of five aircraft that will slowly phase out the BelugaST by 2023. First, this aircraft will have to go through 600 hours of flight testing before it enters service late next year.
The aircraft is powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines, and many of its features were developed as part of a collaboration with suppliers, including the lowered cockpit, the cargo bay, rear-end, and tail. The new design gives the BelugaXL its unique look.
The aircraft, which has been under development since 2014, is as long as two blue whales, three stories high, and has enough payload capacity to carry seven elephants. The BelugaXL is capable of flying 2,500 miles per trip, which will work out to about four million miles per year, primarily between 11 different supplier locations. All told, the distance is the equivalent of 17 flights to the moon.