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Cross wind training in the skies above Shannon Airport saw a rare sighting of the Airbus Beluga XL in Co Clare today (Thursday).

As many counties across the country battened the hatches during gale force winds, an intrepid pilot took to the skies at Shannon Airport. The gale provided perfect conditions for a rare sighting of the Airbus Beluga XL which travelled especially from Toulouse in France to Shannon Airport to undertake cross wind training in the skies above the airport.

The plane, which has aptly earned its name as it is shaped and painted to look like a Beluga whale, took to the skies at 11.00am for a two-hour cross wind training session before returning to France.

Airbus launched the BelugaXL in late 2014 as a new super transporter supporting the A350 ramp-up and other production rate increases. By the end of 2023, six BelugaXLs – derived from the company’s versatile A330 widebody aircraft – will replace the current BelugaST fleet

Sized at seven metres longer and one metre wider than its BelugaST predecessor, the BelugaXL provides 30% extra transport capacity. As an example, a BelugaXL can accommodate two A350 jetliner wings, compared to one in the BelugaST. With a maximum payload of 51 tonnes, the BelugaXL has a range of 4,000 km (2,200 nm).

Airport Operations and Commercial Director at Shannon Airport, Niall Maloney outlined that the runway at Shannon Airport has always been made available for specific crew and aircraft performance training exercises.

He explained, “Today’s bad weather created a great opportunity to get real flight experience in windy conditions. It isn’t the first time that Shannon has facilitated such training, in fact the majority of all new aircraft models since the 1970’s have used Shannon at some time specifically for cross wind component training. It is true what they say every cloud, or in this case gale, has a silver lining”.

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