Last week, the French aircraft manufacturer, Airbus unveiled its latest addition – a cargo plane shaped like a beluga whale. The new model, called Beluga XL, is a larger and upgraded version of the existing Beluga aircraft. Years ago, some of the Airbus aircrafts were nicknamed ‘Beluga’ because of the bump on the front of the aircraft. With this latest model, the employees of Airbus decided to go all the way and give it friendly eyes and a happy grin. It has an overall length of 56.15 meters, a wing span of 44.84 meters and maximum take-off weight of 155 tonnes. That is approximately as large as an A330, a 300 seater passenger Airbus aircraft that flies internationally. The Beluga XL will now be tested and is scheduled to enter service in mid-2019.
Modelled on the gentle giant of the sea, hopefully the Beluga XL will bring about even more awareness on beluga whale conservation.
The beluga whale, with its characteristic bulbous, lobed head, is found around the Arctic sea. Belugas use sounds and echolocation to navigate, to communicate, to hunt and to find breathing holes in the thick Arctic ice. This means they emit calls out to the environment and listen to the echoes of those calls that return from various objects near them. The echo tells them the shape, speed and location of the objects. With the increase in human activity such as shipping and oil drilling in the seas, whales get confused because of the noise and pollution. Beluga whales are now considered near threatened or an endangered species and great efforts are being made to protect them and their environment.
Contributed by: Purnima Thacker, a keen art admirer, nature enthusiast, intellectual property lawyer and mum to a curious 8 year old.