Lonely Planet Writer

Is this the cutest plane ever? Take a look at the new Airbus Beluga XL

Planes can be described as impressive and majestic and all kinds of terms like that, but we rarely describe them as adorable. The new Airbus Beluga XL is an exception though, because with its twinkly-eyed, smiley-faced appearance, it can really only be described as adorably cute. It actually competes with the new Embraer plane that looks like a shark in the eye-catching big fish stakes.

The aircraft is powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines. Image: J. V. Reymondon

Don’t let the cute factor fool you though – it’s huge. You won’t be able to travel in it unfortunately as it’s a super-transporter cargo plane rather than a passenger one. The plane’s distinctive bulbous shape makes it look like a beluga whale, and the livery was one of six choices submitted to Airbus employees through a poll. It won because 40% of 20,000 people voted in favour of its smiling little face and whimsical design.

The Airbus Beluga XL is a super-transporter cargo plane. Image: Airbus

Airbus is headquartered in The Netherlands, and the first Beluga XL is due to enter into service this year after 600 hours of flight testing is complete. It’s designed to fly aircraft components between European production sites and the final Airbus assembly lines in Toulouse, Hamburg and Tianjin. It has an upward-opening forward hatch so that completed aircraft wings, fuselage sections and other components can slide in and out with ease, and its cross-section is eight metres wide.

The Beluga XL has an upward-opening forward hatch so that airplane components can slide in and out with ease. Image; Airbus

The Beluga XL is powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines, and five of the aircraft will be built between 2019 and 2023. Capable of flying 2500 miles per trip, they will operate from 11 destinations. They are sure to cheer up the runways whenever they depart or arrive.

The Airbus Beluga XL looks like a beluga whale. Image: JB. Accariez

For further information on the Airbus Beluga XL, see here.