Valentines day 2019 saw a new arrival at the Airbus plant in Broughton North Wales. G-WBXL the first of Airbus' new transport the BelugaXL arrived at the wing plant witnessed by what seemed to be the whole workforce as well as dozens of media representatives.
After departing Toulouse earlier in the day the aircraft made flybys at the Bristol Filton plant and by the severn bridge before making its way to North Wales.
The plan was for the aircraft to make a flyby before landing but the final decision was the Captains so all eyes were on the aircraft as it made its approach.
Fortunately for the assembled throng the aircraft not only made one flyby but two, the first straight and level.
The second was somewhat more dynamic with Captain Tony Flynn performing a wing wave before coming round again to land.
This flight was not just for display, it forms part of the 600 hour test flight process of which approximately 400 hours have already been completed. The testing started immediately on landing with a full auto brake stop leaving the aircraft surrounded by smoke.
The aircraft was visiting to check out its operation at this factory, ensuring safe and workable operations at both the airfield in general as well as the Line station which has been redesigned to take the slightly larger fuselage.
Once the aircraft had come to a stop in front of both the media and the line station the nose was opened to reveal the crew and Bertrand George, the Head of the BelugaXL programme who I interviewed about how the programme is progressing.
"The programme is on time and we have completed 400 of 600 hours. First real service is scheduled for summer this year" I went on to ask about what has needed changing at the line stations and airfields in the Airbus network. "The Chester runway has had to be regrooved and upgraded to allow the aircraft to operate from here, this work was completed in just two weeks which is a real achievement. There are also some changes needed at St Nazaire but nothing critical" What happens next? Bertrand George again: "Aircraft No2 which is in the final stages of production and expected to fly in Q2 [of this year] will start bringing test loads to Broughton and other sites before the expected first 'real' service which will be performed by this second aircraft"
Somewhat dulled by the lovely sunny day were the hearts shone onto the fuselage as well as the words 'Welcome to the UK' along with a clever little touch, a bright light right in the eye painted on the forward fuselage bringing it to life.
The aircraft performed a number of tests but as mentioned will be back later in ther year with test loads. The aircraft then left today (Saturday) back to Toulouse.
A real privelage to get to see this so close up. In the coming days I will post my story about experiencing a flight on a BelugaST from Broughton to Toulouse a number of years ago. Here is a short video from that flight.