A Beluga XL, part of the new generation of enormous aircraft that Airbus will use to transport plane parts, touched down in the UK for the first time on Thursday.
It left from the Airbus plant in Toulouse, France, and landed in the afternoon at Hawarden Airport in Flintshire, Wales, where it will undergo tests until Saturday.
The Airbus Beluga XL flies over Hawarden Airport. Credit: @avgeekmel (Twitter)
The Beluga XL will gradually replace the existing five-member A300-600ST Beluga fleet from the middle of this year until 2025.
It is 63.1 metres long, 18.9 metres tall and can carry 51 tonnes, with 30 per cent greater capacity than its predecessor.
The Belugas are used to carry complete sections of Airbus aircraft from different production sites around Europe to the final assembly lines in Toulouse and Hamburg, Germany.
Last year the XL livery was chosen by Airbus employees from a shortlist of six designs, with 40 per cent of votes going to a design featuring “beluga whale-inspired eyes and an enthusiastic grin”.
The Airbus Beluga XL makes its first UK landing on February 14. Credit: @avgeekmel (Twitter)
The airborne giant could be spotted over parts of the UK as it headed for Flintshire, including Filton in South Gloucestershire, where around 3,000 Airbus employees work on wings, fuel systems and landing gear integration.
A different Beluga didn’t have quite as smooth a ride yesterday, making an emergency landing at Manchester Airport in the morning due to fog.
See the XL’s maiden flight in July 2018 here: