Airbus frees up BelugaST fleet for external freight companies
European aerospace corporation, Airbus, has launched a new air-cargo service offering its five-strong BelugaST fleet to freight companies and other potential customers. The Airbus Beluga Transport is aiming to service the space, energy, military, aeronautic, maritime and humanitarian sectors.
The first mission took place at the end of 2021 with a delivery from Airbus Helicopters’ manufacturing site in Marignane, France, to Kobe in Japan for an undisclosed customer. Beluga #3 stopped to refuel at Warsaw (Poland), Novosibirsk (Russia) and Seoul (Korea).
Phillippe Sabo, head of ATI and Air Oversize Transport at Airbus, said, “The Beluga’s wider cross-section will open up new markets and new logistical possibilities for customers. In the case of loading helicopters – not having to dismantle them first – really is a plus. Similarly, the largest commercial aircraft engines can be accommodated in a fully-dressed configuration.”
Based on the A300-600 design, the five-strong BelugaST fleet, which has until now been the backbone of Airbus’ inter-site transportation of large aircraft sections, are being replaced by six new-generation BelugaXLs to support Airbus’ ramp-up of its airliner production.
The new Airbus Beluga Transport service can cater for a multitude of possible market applications since the planes possess the world’s largest interior cross-section of any transport aircraft, accommodating outsized cargo of up to 7.1 metres in width and 6.7 metres in height.
In the near future, once Airbus has commissioned all six new BelugaXLs, the fully-released BelugaST fleet will be handed over to a newly-created, subsidiary airline with its own Air Operator Certificate (AOC) and staff. Philippe Sabo added, “The new airline will be flexible and agile to address the needs of external worldwide markets.”
To maximise the BelugaST’s turnaround capability for its targeted international customer base, new loading techniques and equipment are being developed for the operation. These solutions include an automated On-Board Cargo Loader (OBCL) for missions where a loading/unloading platform is not available at the origin or destination airport.