‘World’s strangest airplane’ celebrates 20 years in the skies

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    The Beluga looks very similar to its sea mammal namesake. (Airbus)

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    Five Belugas wait for loading. (Airbus)

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    Is that plane swimming or flying? (Airbus)

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    The A350 XWB’s centre fuselage section is unloaded at the Toulouse, France final assembly facility from an Airbus A300-600ST “Beluga” Super Transporter. (Airbus)

Airbus recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of what many call the world’s strangest looking plane for it whale-like hump.

But what is it even used for?

Pretty much anything can fit on an airplane. Except another plane.

The European plane maker created the Beluga fleet—named for its white whale shaped head and massive size—to transport wings, fuselages and other pre-built plane parts between factories.

“The Beluga is an essential element of Airbus’ integrated logistics and production ‎system,” said Günter Butschek, Airbus Chief Operating Officer, in a statement released to mark the anniversary.

“It is thanks to its reliability and engagement of the Beluga teams that we can fulfil our constant pursuit of efficiency.”

According to Airbus, the mammal-like jumbo jets are almost 184 feet long—that’s more than 30 feet longer the Statue of Liberty if she were laid on her side– and stands 56 feet high. And the interior can hold over 103 tons.  

There are five aircraft in total which make about 60 flights a week between eleven European cities including Hamburg and Toulouse where the Airbus factories are located. The company expects that the Beluga will see even more action in the coming years thanks to increased plane production.

The Beluga made its first flight on Sept. 13, 1994, where it was quickly named “the world’s strangest airplane.

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