The world is full of some amazing airplanes that are off-limits to typical travelers, one of which is the new Beluga XL by Airbus.

This new airplane is the biggest one of its kind, built to transport cargo that is not meant for the military. For instance, the Beluga XL can carry the wings, main body section, and tail for other aircraft parts of the A300 family.

Unlike the older generation Belugas, this one was given some character. The Beluga XL was painted to look like the sea mammal, with a smile—a quirky and fun idea by the Airbus family!

Previous Beluga models have been retrofitted from the A300, however, the Beluga XL is a modified version of the A330. It will take a flight test later this year after performing a series of tests on the ground.

Interestingly enough, the Beluga XL has been in production for the past four years, with a total of five being built. The first few that are currently being tested will begin carrying cargo starting early next year.

According to the head of Airbus Transport International, Stephane Gosselin, “The need for the new Beluga comes with the increase in production rates and to get extra capacity on top of this fleet of five aircrafts”. The Beluga XL is twenty feet longer and three feet wider compared to its predecessor. The 30 percent of extra space will allow it to transport six tons more weight than the original Beluga.

At present, Airbus owns a total of five original Belugas, which will cease operation by 2021. This is when the rest of the new XLs will take their place.

Have you been one of the lucky few to see one of the older generation Belugas in person (or even up in the air)?