Making the Airbus BelugaXL a Miniatur star

Certification of the Airbus A330-700, more commonly known as the BelugaXL, earlier this month was a significant milestone for the aircraft manufacturer. The aircraft will officially enter service in 2020 and six total frames are expected to be built, serving eleven destinations in Europe to help move components between Airbus factories. But it is a twelfth airport and seventh BelugaXL frame that might be the most special.

Knuffingen Airport, just across the river from Airbus’s Finkenwerder site in Hamburg, will also see the BelugaXL fly regularly. What makes that special is that Knuffingen is an indoor airport, housed at Miniatur Wunderland. The airport was one of the first portions built in the massive model site and since the beginning the company has wanted to include a Beluga, paying homage to the local manufacturer. Until now, however, the Beluga did not fly in Knuffingen. With the XL now moving into operations, however, the company revisited the project and brought it to life.

Perhaps most interesting to me, other than seeing some of the behind-the-scenes bits of the process, is understanding just how complex the Miniatur Wunderland operations are for making the models work. Watch the video above and you’ll see some of the significant testing that went into making sure that the BelugaXL could properly “fly” inside. These tests are nowhere near as rigorous as those demanded by EASA, of course, but they show some of the engineering challenges to be overcome.

Plus, getting to see some of the failure scenarios involved is pretty cool.

Also, you should go visit Miniatur Munderland if you’re anywhere close to Hamburg. Sign up for one of the behind the scenes tours. They are worth every euro and then some. A twitter thread from my most recent visit – including the special tour – is below.


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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

One Comment

  1. Hey Seth, speaking of miniatures…if you know of anyone wanting to get rid of a 747 or A380 model let me know, I have a child interested in flying and it’d be a great holiday gift!

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