19/04/2024
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The Airbus A300-600ST – BELUGA

The Airbus A300-600ST, commonly referred to as the Beluga, is a specialized transport aircraft designed by Airbus to carry oversized cargo and aircraft components between its manufacturing facilities across Europe. The unique shape of the Beluga is due to its extra-large cargo compartment. It is 7.4 meters wide, 7.7 meters high, and 37.7 meters long. It is also the first aircraft designed solely for the purpose of transporting oversized cargo.

The Airbus A300-600ST - BELUGA
source: By Julien.scavini – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16856616

The Beluga was first introduced in September 1995 and is a modification of the Airbus A300-600 passenger airliner. The A300-600ST was developed to replace the aging Super Guppy transport aircraft, which was also designed by Airbus and used to transport large aircraft components during the 1960s and 1970s.

Ability to Carry Very Large Cargo Sizes

One of the key features of the Beluga is its ability to carry entire sections of other Airbus aircraft, such as the A320, A330, and A350, as well as engines and other oversized cargo. The Beluga’s cargo hold can accommodate payloads of up to 47 metric tons, making it one of the largest cargo aircraft in the world.



The Beluga’s cockpit and avionics are identical to those of the A300-600 passenger airliner. This feature makes it easier for pilots to transition between the two aircraft. The Beluga also uses the same engines and landing gear as the A300-600, which makes maintenance and repair more straightforward.

Total of 5 Airbus Belugas on Service

Airbus currently operates five Beluga aircraft, which are based at its facilities in Toulouse, France, and Hamburg, Germany (as 01.2024). The aircraft are used to transport aircraft components between Airbus’s various production sites across Europe, including France, Germany, Spain, and the UK.

Super Guppy Transport Aircraft
source: https://www.kokpitteyiz.com/aero-spacelines-super-guppy/

The Beluga has played a vital role in Airbus’s production process since its introduction, enabling the company to transport large aircraft components quickly and efficiently between its various manufacturing sites. Its unique design and capabilities have made it an iconic aircraft, and it has become a familiar sight at airports around the world.

The BelugaXL – 30% more Cargo Capacity

In 2020, Airbus announced plans to introduce a new generation of Beluga aircraft, called the BelugaXL. The BelugaXL has a cargo hold that is 30% larger than the original Beluga. And she can carry payloads of up to 51 metric tons. The BelugaXL also has a longer range and can travel up to 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles) with a full payload. The first BelugaXL entered service in January 2020, and Airbus plans to operate a fleet of six aircraft by 2023.

In conclusion, the Airbus A300-600ST Beluga is a unique and specialized aircraft designed for transporting oversized cargo, including entire sections of Airbus aircraft, between its manufacturing facilities across Europe. Its distinctive appearance and impressive cargo capacity have made it an iconic aircraft. And it continues to play a vital role in Airbus’s production process. The BelugaXL, the next-generation version of the Beluga, promises to build on the success of the original Beluga, with improved cargo capacity and range, ensuring that Airbus’s oversized cargo transport needs are met for many years to come.

References:

  1. Airbus Beluga: https://www.airbus.com/aircraft/freighter/beluga.html
  2. Airbus BelugaXL: https://www.airbus.com/aircraft/freighter/beluga-xl.html
  3. “Airbus Beluga: The Most Unique Aircraft in the Sky.” AirlineGeeks, 5 June 2020, https://airlinegeeks.com/2020/06/05/airbus-beluga-the-most-unique-aircraft-in-the-sky/
  4. “The Airbus A300-600ST Beluga – A Transporter Like No Other.”