After some time in the paint shop, the Airbus BelugaXL’s exterior will now reflect its namesake. Sporting a special livery designed to look like an actual beluga whale, the first of five BelugaXL aircraft has just rolled out.
The aquatic livery was the winner in a poll of six design choices voted on by 20,000 Airbus employees. Forty percent of participants chose the smiley design for the oversize air transporter, which is based on the A330-200 Freighter.
Airbus decided to build the BelugaXL in November 2014 to address the company’s transport and ramp-up capacity requirements beyond 2019. Now that the aircraft looks the part, the BelugaXL will undertake ground tests before its first planned flight this summer.
According to Mathieu Laemle, ground test project leader, a total of 72 development and certification ground tests need to be performed before the aircraft’s first flight. The aircraft recently passed ground vibration tests and Airbus says testing is on track to be completed in time for the maiden flight.
The BelugaXL is scheduled to enter into service in 2019. Starting in mid-2019, the aircraft are set to gradually replace the existing five-member Beluga ST fleet, which Airbus uses to carry complete sections of aircraft from different production sites throughout Europe to final assembly lines in Toulouse, France and Hamburg, Germany.