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Airbus’ oddly-shaped Beluga plane gets a makeover

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Sporting eyes and a cheeky smile, Airbus’ new BelugaXL plane has been given a makeover to make it look more like its animal namesake.

The aircraft’s new guise was unveiled last week as it rolled out of the paintshop in Toulouse, France.

Airbus employees were asked to vote on a design for the plane, with 40 per cent voting in favour of the comical grin.

The Airbus A300-600ST made its maiden flight on September 13, 1994 and was officially called the Super Transporter.

However, it soon earned its nickname for the plane’s uncanny resemblance to the white Beluga whale, with its distinctive hump on its head. The plane’s monicker became so popular that it stuck, and was adopted for official use by Airbus shortly afterwards.

The odd-looking aircraft was specially modified to transport large plane parts such as wings between Airbus’ European production factories and to its final assembly lines in France, Germany and Spain.

In 2004, the aircraft was used to transport relief to the Indian Ocean region following the devastating tsunami and in 2005, it delivered aid and medical supplies to the U.S. after Hurricane Katrina.

The new model BelugaXL is six metres longer and one metre wider than the BelugaST transporter it is replacing. It can also carry six more tonnes in weight.

An example of its payload, is that it will be able to transport both wings of the A350 XWB jetliner at once, instead of the single wing currently accommodated on the BelugaST.

The aircraft is set to undertake ground tests before its first planned flight this summer.


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