EUROPE- Planespotter enthusiasts often include unique and unconventional aircraft types in their must-see lists.
While eye-catching liveries and personal favorite planes remain popular choices among planespotters, visually striking military aircraft or special freighters such as the Airbus Beluga XL and Boeing Dreamlifter stand out as something truly extraordinary.
Destinations of the Airbus BelugaXL?
Since these unique freighters are mainly dedicated to carrying oversized plane components to each aircraft manufacturer’s facilities, they aren’t flown on typical commercial cargo routes and don’t always have a fixed schedule, making spotting them relatively challenging. But if you’re up for the challenge, here’s where you will likely have the most luck finding one of these aircraft.
Known as the super transporter that plays a crucial role in supporting the production of various aircraft, including the Airbus A350, the Airbus BelugaXL boasts the capability to transport up to two A350XWB wings over a maximum distance of 4,000 kilometers (2,200 nautical miles).
It is actively employed in servicing 11 destinations across Europe, thus significantly enhancing the manufacturer’s industrial capabilities. Among these 11 destinations, the most frequently visited ones include:
Considering that the aircraft manufacturer’s primary headquarters and production facilities are situated in this French city, Toulouse Blagnac Airport frequently witnesses the presence of the Airbus BelugaXL.
Typically commencing its flight missions from this location, the super transporter takes off from Toulouse en route to various Airbus production facilities throughout Europe.
While less common, this freighter also embarks on transatlantic journeys from the same airport to serve Airbus’ facility sites in the United States.
Hamburg Finkenwerder Airport is a consistent stop on the Airbus BelugaXL’s itinerary. This German location serves as the hub for Airbus Commercial Aircraft operations in the country and plays a pivotal role in the development of various Airbus aircraft models.
Notably, this industrial facility plays a substantial role in the A330 and A350 programs, specializing in producing and outfitting forward and rear fuselage sections for these aircraft.
As the primary hub for wing production of Airbus commercial aircraft, including a significant focus on the A350 in the UK, Chester Hawarden Airport frequently receives visits from the Airbus BelugaXL.
After the wings undergo partial equipment installation in the UK, most of them are transported back to Toulouse by this super transporter for the final assembly phase.
Nantes Atlantique Airport
As Airbus Atlantic is currently producing the Centre Wing Box for the passenger Airbus A350s, the team in Nantes is simultaneously manufacturing modified Centre Wing Boxes for the freighter version, known as the A350F.
Due to these concurrent production activities, the Airbus BelugaXL has significantly increased its frequency of flights to Nantes Atlantique Airport.
What Regarding the Boeing Dreamlifter?
While the Airbus BelugaXL boasts an endearing appearance, the Boeing Dreamlifter, in contrast, holds a slightly more visually striking presence.
This colossal aircraft was primarily designed to transport essential components required for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, hence its name, from various global suppliers to the company’s manufacturing facilities across the United States.
Interestingly, one of the Dreamlifter’s most common destinations is located in Europe rather than at one of Boeing’s facilities in the United States. Here are the top four destinations:
Charleston International Airport, renowned as the hub for Boeing 787 Dreamliner production, is the primary destination to spot the Boeing Dreamlifter.
The freighter frequently arrives and departs from this airport while transporting various aircraft parts. Additionally, there’s a dedicated Dreamlifter Operations Center in close proximity to the facility.
Everett Paine Field is home to Boeing’s prominent aircraft assembly plant, responsible for manufacturing models such as the 767, 777, 787, and, previously, the iconic 747. This location also serves as the primary base for the Boeing Dreamlifter.
While Charleston is the primary site for Boeing 787 Dreamliner production, the dedicated freighter transports a substantial volume of partially equipped aircraft components to Everett, effectively distributing the production workload.
Wichita McConnell Air Force Base is a relatively common destination for the Boeing Dreamlifter.
This is primarily due to one of Boeing’s significant suppliers, Spirit AeroSystems, which manufactures the forward fuselage of the 787 Dreamliner at its Wichita facility. As a result, the Dreamlifter often flies from Charleston or Everett to Wichita.
Taranto Grottaglie Airport in Italy is another prominent destination for the Boeing Dreamlifter. Boeing is a critical supplier for Alenia Aermacchi, formerly Alenia Aeronautica.
Alenia Aermacchi operates a massive production plant at Monteiasi-Grottaglie, specializing in producing fuselage barrels for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This makes Taranto Grottaglie Airport a well-known and frequented location for the Boeing Dreamlifter.
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