A New Look for the World’s Chubbiest Airbus

May 1, 2017

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Both Boeing and Airbus fly specially modified aircraft to carry parts for their next-generation aircraft such as the 787 Dreamliner or the A350 from manufacturers to the assembly line.

Boeing’s 747 LCF Dreamlifter and Airbus’ A300-600ST “Beluga” are both derived from existing aircraft types and resemble a (very) chubby relative. Though the Dreamlifter’s cargo hold is bigger than the Beluga’s, both are large enough to fit wings and significant sections of fuselages inside their gargantuan cargo holds. These special aircraft can deliver aircraft components without having to risk putting them on freight trains or break them up and ship them on trucks. Both planes are unique (fewer than 10 have been built across both companies), but while the Dreamlifter looks a lot like a chubby 747-400, the Beluga resembles, well, a Beluga whale.


For some time, Airbus has been seeking better fuel efficiency and capability in its cargo-hauling giant. The new model, based on an A330-200, is slightly longer and wider than the A300-derived model, with more powerful engines, capable of lifting over six tons more than the previous iteration. This means the new Beluga can carry two A350-style wings, as opposed to just one with the old model. Entry into service is slated for 2019, and Airbus expects to replace the five existing Beluga planes soon after.

The funny thing about the Beluga is that it’s always been self-aware, so to speak. The airframe looks like a whale, and Airbus didn’t hold back from formally naming it after one. As part of a brand initiative, Airbus asked its employees to vote on a specialty livery for the first of its new airplanes. Employees chose their favorite from six different designs. “Smiling BelugaXL,” garnering over 40% of the vote, emerged victorious, complete with Beluga whale eyes and a huge grin. Though some think this plane is ugly, you can’t deny that it doesn’t at least look friendly.

Have you seen either of these behemoths in person? Do you like the speciality livery?

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