Airbus launches supersize air cargo service

By Rebecca Jeffrey

Photo: Airbus S.A.S. H Gousse/ Master films

Airbus has launched a new air cargo service using its BelugaST fleet to help meet outsized freight transportation needs.

Airbus said the new service can cater for various possible market applications since the planes possess the “world’s largest interior cross-section of any transport aircraft”, accommodating outsized cargo of up to 7.1m in width and 6.7m in height.

A range of customers are anticipated within the space, energy, military, aeronautic, maritime and humanitarian sectors.

Airbus said 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.

Beluga #3 takes off from Novosibirsk Airport in Russia on its final destination to Kobe, Japan. Copyright: Airbus S.A.S

To maximise the BelugaST’s turnaround capability, 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.

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.

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.

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