It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a… whale?

The Airbus Beluga is refuelling in St. John's before breaching again to deliver a satellite to the Kennedy Space Center. (Ted Dillon/CBC - image credit)
The Airbus Beluga is refuelling in St. John's before breaching again to deliver a satellite to the Kennedy Space Center. (Ted Dillon/CBC - image credit)
Ted Dillon/CBC
Ted Dillon/CBC

Plane spotters had a whale of a time in St. John's on Wednesday with the arrival of the Airbus Beluga, but no one was blubbering about the cold — it was all fin and games as they watched the giant plane touch down.

The plane, carrying a satellite for British telecommunications company Inmarsat, stopped at St. John's International Airport to refuel before continuing to Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Will Goodridge — a Gander flight student and self-proclaimed aviation enthusiast — was at the airport watching when the Beluga arrived.

WATCH | A massive whale-shaped plane lands in St. John's

"When you got a plane like the Beluga coming in, as an enthusiast, you got to come up. No question," he said.

Ted Dillon/CBC
Ted Dillon/CBC

He has seen an Airbus Beluga once before, when he was flying in Gander. The Beluga was taking off at that time, and Goodridge still enjoys telling the... tail.

Jillian Rice, Inmarsat's regional human resources director, said this type of aircraft is rare.

"There are actually only five Belugas, not counting the XL Beluga, so it's a rare sighting and it's exciting for us to see this here today," she said.

"Standing next to something that so many of our employees have worked so diligently with Airbus employees on is just a real feeling of pride and accomplishment."

He said the Airbus Beluga was designed to transport aircraft parts, such as wings. It would transport those components to Airbus's manufacturing plant in France. Now, he said, the Beluga is used for other missions, like delivering satellites.

Plane passion

Goodridge spent five years studying business at Memorial University before applying to flight school because of his lifelong interest in planes.

He isn't sure where his interest comes from — ever since he was a kid, he has just been fascinated — but that passion has lingered for his entire life. And where there's a whale, there's a way.

"Every time I knew there was a cool plane coming to St. John's … I'd always make my way out. And I was always fascinated by it."

Goodridge said he wasn't surprised to see dozens of people the airport waiting to watch the Beluga land.

"I don't know a single person who doesn't look up in the sky when they hear an airplane," he said.

Rice said excited aircraft enthusiasts can see the Airbus Beluga when it stops to fuel up on the way back to France.

The satellite will be launched at the end of February.

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