WASHINGTON - Airbus 's latest aircraft - the Beluga XL - made its flight debut on Thursday.
Nicknamed the Whale in the Sky because of its unique shape, the aircraft took off from Toulouse Airport in France on Friday morning on its maiden voyage.
According to the Sun, a crowd of more than 10,000 people, mostly employees and subcontractors of the European aircraft manufacturer, applauded as it took to the skies.
The plane has been designed to move oversized aircraft components and has an extra 30 per cent capacity on the current Beluga planes that it will replace.
This new plane is six metres longer and a metre wider, which means it can carry two A350 XWB plane wings instead of one.
Also known as A300-600ST Super Transporter, the company’s five existing Belugas play a key role in keeping its production and assembly network operating at full capacity, with the fleet’s overall pace of operations – managed by the Airbus Transport International (ATI) subsidiary – growing to support production ramp-ups.
The Beluga retains the same modern flight deck that is in worldwide operation on Airbus A300-600s and A310s.
It is operated by a three-member crew comprising two pilots and a loadmaster. The main instrument panel incorporates six cathode ray tube (CRT) displays that continuously provide flight, navigation and systems-monitoring information in a clear, comprehensive manner.
Also included in the cockpit are controls for a transportable heating module that can be installed in the main deck cargo compartment. The module provides temperature-controlled conditions for sensitive payloads carried by the Beluga, including satellites and paintings.