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One of the biggest planes in the world, as well as perhaps the most adorable one — the Airbus Beluga XL — is almost here. Airbus A330-700XL has just completed a key round of testing, which included 600 hours of flight testing over 10 months necessary to gain Type Certification and entry into service later this year. The Beluga XL program was initiated back in November 2014 and is based on the Airbus A330. However, the newest version of Beluga offers 30 percent more capacity than the previous one and is able to carry 2 A350 XWB wings instead of one. This impressive super-transporter cargo plane is powered by 2 Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines — costing almost 700 million dollars each — and is capable of flying 2500 miles per trip, carrying 50 tonnes in its upper cargo deck. Airbus noted that XL’s bubble is 6 meters longer and 1 meter wider than the original, meaning its cross-section is 8 meters wide. Company will build a total of 5 Beluga XL aircraft between 2019 and 2023, and they will operate from 11 locations around Europe, transporting large aircraft components to final assembly plants in Toulouse, Hamburg and Tianjin. The new sky-whale features an amazing paint job of “beluga whale-inspired eyes and enthusiastic grin“, which was picked in a poll of 20 thousand Airbus workers, gathering 40 percent of votes. Beluga XL will be one of the biggest aircraft roaming the skies, especially with the fact that jumbo passenger aircraft — Airbus A380 and Boeing 747 are already on their way out. Airbus has recently released a statement, announcing that after flying more than 500 thousand revenue flights and carrying over 190 million passengers to date, with more than 300 commercial flights a day, company is ending deliveries of the iconic aircraft. The last A380 superjumbo would be delivered in 2021. Company’s CEO Tom Enders said that “The A380 is not only an outstanding engineering and industrial achievement. Passengers all over the world love to fly on this great aircraft. Hence today's announcement is painful for us and the A380 communities worldwide. We’ve invested a lot of effort, a lot of resources, a lot of sweat…but we need to be realistic.“ Although Airbus hoped that the A380 would revolutionise passenger air travel, the project failed due to a couple reasons.  A380, the world’s largest airliner, with 2 decks of spacious cabins and room for 544 people in standard layout, was designed to challenge Boeing’s legendary 747. Company hoped to sell 600 of A380, but the final number was significantly smaller — 313 orders. Its price has often been described as “outrageous“, and finally the whole A380 programme was delayed and over budget, and did not turn a profit, as the only carrier to place significant orders was Emirates. After receiving announcements from Airbus about significant production delays, other lead customers, including FedEx and UPS, have also decided to leave the A380 programme. The second reason was the development of smaller, long-range planes that are more fuel- efficient and can connect smaller airports.

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