Airbus has launched a service using its Beluga super transporter (ST) fleet to support commercial customers with outsized transport needs.
The Airbus Beluga Transport service will serve clients in a variety of markets, including space, energy, military, aeronautic, maritime and humanitarian sectors. The aircraft can accommodate cargoes measuring up to 7.1 m wide and 6.7 m tall.
Based on the A300-600 design, the five BelugaST fleet has, until now, been used to transport large aircraft sections between its manufacturing facilities. As Airbus ramps up its airliner production, the BelugaSTs are being replaced by six BelugaXLs. In the near future, once Airbus has commissioned all six BelugaXLs, the BelugaST fleet will be handed over to a new subsidiary airline with its own air operator certificate (AOC) and staff.
Philippe Sabo, head of ATI and air oversized transport at Airbus, said: “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 international customer base, new loading techniques and equipment are being developed for the operation. These solutions include an automated onboard cargo loader (OBCL) for missions where a loading/unloading platform is not available at the origin or destination airport.
One of the BelugaSTs was recently deployed to deliver a helicopter from Airbus’ manufacturing site in Marignane, France, to Kobe in Japan for an undisclosed customer. The aircraft stopped to refuel at Warsaw (Poland), Novosibirsk (Russia) and Seoul (South Korea).
Sabo commented: “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.”