New Beluga to fly by 2019
25 / 02 / 2015
Airbus is to expand its oversize air transport capability with the development of five new Beluga transport aircraft.
The future “white whales” will be based on the A330 aircraft, with a large re-use of existing components and equipment.
The current five-strong Beluga fleet – now up to 20 years old – is based on the twin-engine A300-600R and can carry a maximum payload of 47 tonnes non-stop over a range of 1,660 km.
Said Airbus: “The distinctive looking lowered cockpit, the cargo bay structure and the rear-end and tail will be amongst the items which will be newly developed.”
The European plane maker said that the A350 XWB ramp-up and other aircraft production rate increase were behind the decision to launch the development and production of the specialist freighter.
The first of the new Belugas will enter in service in mid-2019. The existing Beluga fleet will operate in parallel, and will be progressively retired through to 2025.
The Airbus Beluga replaced the ageing Super Guppy transporters from 1995 in order to supply plane maker Airbus’ final assembly lines in Toulouse and Hamburg.
Today, more than sixty flights are performed each week between eleven sites, carrying parts for all of the Airbus programmes, including the A380.
The five-strong Beluga fleet is operated by Airbus Transport International, an Airbus subsidiary airline.
With the production start of the A350 XWB in 2012 and the production ramp-up on other Airbus programmes, the Beluga fleet activity will increase substantially over the next five years.
Airbus says that flight hours per aircraft will double by 2017 (from 5,000 to 10,000 flight hours).
Did you find this article of interest, if so why not register for a FREE digital subscription to Air Cargo News? – Find out more