Airbus decided to seek a new source of revenue with the BelugaST aircraft fleet. The manufacturer announced on Tuesday that the five special planes, whose fuselage is oversized to carry sections of its commercial jets, will be part of a new service called Airbus Beluga Transport.
The BelugaST is based on the A300-600 jetliner and was until recently the backbone of the transport system between Airbus facilities around the world, bringing large parts to the assembly lines of its planes.
However, the planemaker decided to replace them with the BelugaXL, a new variant based on the A330-200 and which has an even greater capacity, as well as superior autonomy. Six jets of this model are being put into service.
As a result, the five BelugaSTs will begin to provide services to third parties in the transport of oversized cargo, explained Airbus, which hopes to supply the demand of sectors that include space, energy, military, aeronautic, maritime and humanitarian.
“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,” said Phillippe Sabo, Head of ATI and Air Oversize Transport at Airbus.
The first commercial flight of a BelugaST took place in December when an H225 helicopter was transported from Marignane, France, to Kobe in Japan for delivery to an undisclosed customer.
According to Airbus, the Beluga has 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”.