Beluga XL at Broughton

The new Airbus Beluga XL landed at Broughton for the first time on 14 February 2019. Hundreds turned out to welcome the aircraft on its maiden flight to the UK and the test pilots put on a good show.

Beluga XL lands at Airbus Broughton

The aircraft appeared in the sky to the West of Chester at approximately 3.20pm before circling low over the city for a long final approach. I was standing on the banks of the River Dee about 300ft from the threshold of the runway and it was an amazing sight. The first flypast was low and graceful before it powered back up into the sky.

After the first flypast, the Beluga XL circled around Chester again – this time lower and faster, and lined up on short final. It roared overhead once again before performing a wing wave over the Broughton site. It is a spectacular manoeuvre for such a big aircraft and the crowd waved back of course.

I was shooting on the Sigma 70-200 f2.8 in continuous high. Unfortunately, when shooting raw on the D750, the buffer has a tendency to fill up very quickly but I got the shots I wanted. The light was perfect although a lot of post production work was needed on the shots into the sun. The D750 has a tremendous ability to recover shadow detail in raw.

Getting to the site was a little tricky and it was cold. The roads around the airport were gridlocked and North Wales Police were moving people on. The airport viewing park was an option but again, difficult to access. The banks of the River Dee gave the best view I think although I didn’t get the touchdown.

I was planning to photograph the take off the following day but Airbus moved the departure time by 2 hours to avoid a repeat of the chaos on the surrounding roads. The Beluga XL will be a frequent visitor to Chester when it enters service but they never publish the timetable so it’s difficult to shoot.

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