The Beluga gets even bigger


The battle of the behemoths has taken another step forward with the arrival of Airbus's new Beluga XL, named for its resemblance to the whale. Like most of the other really huge cargo planes, it's designed to carry large assemblies between airplane factories. Five of them will be built.

In the Beluga XL's case, the new carrier can carry two complete A350 wings to the final assembly point; its predecessor, the Beluga ST, could only carry one. The Belugas are basically regular Airbus models with super-stretched fuselages. The ST was based on the A300; the XL is built on the much-larger A330 frame. It claims the title for largest cargo volume of any plane.

Boeing has built similar, but less cute, Dreamlifter planes based on the 747; Russia's Antonov has also built super-large cargo planes; at least one is on lease to Boeing.

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It's a beautiful sight as it passes over Liverpool. Descending into Hawarden Airport. It collects new Airbus wings and then returns to Germany. This aircraft is so big it appears to be stationary in the sky as it passes above.