AIRBUS' new "whale in the sky" took off on Thursday morning.

The BelugaXL - based on the A330-200 Freighter - has been seen in French skies as it took off on its maiden voyage in Toulouse at 8.30am UK time.

The new model's first flight is part of a 10-month test to see if it will be worthy of service entry at Broughton Airbus in 2019.

Although the giant aircraft is not flying over Broughton today on its short sample flight, the BelugaXL is set to come to the Flintshire airport in the next few months when the runway is upgraded with a 200ft long 14ft blast fence to accommodate the new model.

The BelugaXL will gradually phase out the current five-plane Beluga ST fleet which carries aircraft parts to European countries.

The XL successor can carry 6 more tonnes, is 20ft longer, and is powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 700 high bypass turbofan aircraft engines.

The 'smiling whale' with a cone-nosed aerodynamic front was chosen by Airbus employees.

Tim Orr, head of branding at Airbus, said: "The six designs we proposed for consideration by employees respected our brand identity while running from the conventional to the unconventional, even adding a touch of fun."

Airbus are tweeting the BelugaXL's flight on their live Twitter feed.