(CNN) — It’s finally here.
One of the aviation world’s most hotly anticipated planes, the Airbus Beluga XL, has entered full-time service, having made its first operational flight on January 9, 2020.
The super-transporter cargo plane is designed by Airbus to fly its aircraft components between production sites in Europe and its final assembly lines in Toulouse, France; Hamburg, Germany; and Tianjin, China.
The Beluga XL is the successor to the Beluga, or Airbus A300-600ST, which has been in operation since 1995.
Its design was adapted from an A330 airliner, with Airbus engineers lowering the flight deck and grafting a huge cargo bay onto the fuselage to create its distinctive shape.
Through an upward-opening forward hatch on the “bubble,” completed aircraft wings, fuselage sections and other components easily slide in and out.
The XL’s bubble is six meters longer and one meter wider than the original, meaning its cross-section is a whopping eight meters wide.
The BelugaXL entered service in January 2020.
Putting the ‘fun’ in functional
The plane’s distinctive bulbous shape has…