Aircraft manufacturer Airbus’ newest oversize transport plane has made an historic visit to Shannon Airport today.
Airbus’ next-generation BelugaXL oversize airlifter, which is due to enter service later this year, is in Shannon undergoing crosswind training and rejected take-offs (RTOs) as part of a rigorous certification process.
Painted with a whale’s face, the massive jet is a modified version of the Airbus’ popular A330 freighter variant and has been designed and built to transport complete aircraft sections across the company’s European production network.
When it enters service, a fleet of six Beluga XLs will replace its Airbus’ current five-strong team of A300 Beluga STs which can no longer cope with parts for the company’s newer aircraft including the Airbus A350-1000 which has also visited Shannon as part of its flight testing programme.
The aircraft, which arrived from Airbus’ Toulouse, France headquarters at 11.00am, has attracted considerable attention from airplane spotters and enthusiasts who travelled from near and far to see the aircraft.
Airbus regularly uses Shannon for flight testing as part of aircraft certification before new jets enter commercial service.
In 2006, the largest passenger plane in the world, the Airbus A380, undertook cross-winding training in Shannon while new Airbus aircraft models have been visiting Shannon in recent years for similar training.
At 3,200m, the runway at Shannon is the longest in Ireland and can cater for all the largest aircraft in operation.