The Airbus BelugaXL was already hilarious. Born with a forehead the size of Arkansas and a growth on its back, the fact that the BelugaXL can fly at all was funny enough. But now that the first one has rolled out of the paint shop, it’s friendly face has swayed me from laughing approval to all-out love.
I mean, just look at that dopey mug. Inspired by the Beluga’s namesake whale, the first-of-five BelugaXL’s paint job is a simple design, with eyes and a mouth that resemble that of the whale’s perma-grin.
Monstrosity or masterpiece, the BelugaXL certainly has an important job. The highly-modified A330-200 freighter is set to take first flight this summer, entering service in 2019 to help supplement Airbus’ original fleet of highly-modified A300 Belugas.
Those workhorses have been flying at capacity this year transporting parts of other Airbus aircraft. As the company continues to increase production, it needs more massive cargo planes to move components to Airbus’ final assembly locations in Toulouse, France and Hamburg, Germany.
The Belugas may be massive, but Airbus is delivering five times as many aircrafts per year as they were when the Beluga entered service in 1994. Five transporters simply won’t cut it anymore, which is why the BelugaXL will enter service in 2019 alongside the original Beluga.
Of course, it still has one major improvement. While the original Beluga can only fit one A350 XWB wing at a time, the new cargo hold was specifically designed to accommodate two. That’s especially great considering that the A350 XWB, like many other planes, has two wings.
Those wings, by the way, are loaded in through the BelugaXL’s massive forehead to the massive cargo area. That cargo area, I should note, is unpressurized.
While heating elements remain should the BelugaXL be called into duty transporting something sensitive to the extreme cold, the fact that it mostly moves airplane parts means pressurization isn’t worth the energy. Plus, it keeps faithful to the beluga whale after which it is named, as beluga whales lack any form of pressurization system.
But forget all of that. Ignore the important duty and the rarity. We’re not here to talk about engineering. Just look at that big, goofy face and realize that the Airbus BelugaXL is the only vehicle you need in your life. It may not be the most practical or easy to park machine, but at least it’s happy.