The first BelugaXL took off this morning from Blagnac in Toulouse, France at 9.30am UK time, for its maiden flight over south western France.
The aircraft is the first of five BelugaXL to enter into service later in 2019 and to gradually replace the BelugaST transporters.
The crew in the cockpit on board this flight comprised: Captain Christophe Cail, Co-Pilot Bernardo Saez-Benito Hernandez and Test-Flight Engineer Jean Michel Pin.
Meanwhile, monitoring the aircraft systems and performance in real-time at the flight-test-engineer’s (FTE) station were Laurent Lapierre and Philippe Foucault.
Beluga XL landed back in Toulouse just after 1.30pm but not before doing a spectacular flypast and cheeky fin (wing) waggle over Blagnac airport,
Not everything has gone to plan though this morning, a Beluga ST – the transporter which is a familiar sight in the skies above Deeside, was due to perform a flypast with the new Beluga XL, however, it declared an emergency and had to return to Blagnac in Toulouse.
Airport fire crews were put on standby as F-GSTA made its approach at around 10.25am – thankfully it landed safely, the nature of the emergency is not known.
This but hasn’t gone quite to plane though – an Airbus Beluga was expected to do a flypast with the new Beluga XL its declared an emergency and returned to Toulouse-Blagnac airport pic.twitter.com/9sAHh8GOTZ
— Deeside.com (@DeesideDotCom) July 19, 2018
A video of the landing can be seen here: Airlivenet
The sheer size of the BelugaXL means new safety measures at Hawarden airport will need to be brought in including a huge ‘blast fence’ which will sadly will obscure some of the view of the runway from a popular vantage point.
With a wingspan of 60 metres – 35% bigger than of the existing Beluga – along with increased capacity and take-off weight, Hawarden Airfield will be upgraded to a ‘Code E’ aerodrome and will require modifications ahead of the new transporter coming into service.
The work includes the resurfacing of the runway, new turn pads to both ends of the existing runway and the erection of three blast fences, one to each end of the runway and one adjacent to the existing Beluga apron.
The blast fencing, also known as jet blast deflectors – are a safety device that redirects the high energy exhaust from a jet engine to prevent damage and injury.
[🎥 An extreme example of what happens when the engines of a KLM 747 jet are spooled up at the famous Maho Beach in St Maarten – a blast fence at Broughton will prevent the bikini and speedo clad masses from being blown across Chester Road into the farmers field opposite]
The new BelugaXL is fitted with two Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines which will pack around 30% more thrust than the current General Electric power plants.
According to plans approved by Flintshire County Council, one blast fence will run alongside Chester Road just off Broughton roundabout close to the emergency gates.
[Plan shows the 200 foot long 14 high blast fence which will be erected at the runway close to Chester Road – another two fences will also be erected, one at the other end of the runway and the other close to the Airbus building]
The proposed fence will be 14 feet high, over 200 feet long and painted orange and white, looking at the plans, it will obscure large parts of the current runway view from the roadside and public footpath.
The unofficial viewing area is popular with many people who congregate to watch the Beluga jets take off.
[All images Airbus]