Airbus Launches Beluga Cargo Service


Airbus announced on Tuesday that it has launched a new air cargo service for transporting outsized freight using its fleet of BelugaST aircraft. Airbus Beluga Transport is aimed at markets including the space, energy, military, aeronautic, maritime and humanitarian sectors. The service completed its first delivery at the end of 2021 with a run from Airbus Helicopters’ manufacturing site in Marignane, France, to Kobe, Japan.

“The Beluga’s wider cross-section will open up new markets and new logistical possibilities for customers,” said Phillippe Sabo, Airbus head of ATI and air oversize transport. “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.”

According to Airbus, it is also developing new loading techniques and equipment for Airbus Beluga Transport operations. The company has been using its five BelugaST aircraft, which can carry cargo measuring up to 7.1 meters (23.3 feet) in width and 6.7 meters (22 feet) in height, for inter-site transportation of large aircraft sections. Following the commissioning of six new BelugaXL models, the first of which entered service in January 2020, Airbus says the BelugaSTs will be turned over to a newly created subsidiary airline with its own air operator certificate (AOC) and staff.

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Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. Back in the early 1970s there was a Guppy and a Super Guppy supersized air transports usually parked at the Santa Barbara CA A/P that were originally built to haul Saturn 5 parts across country, so the concept is not new. They were easily visible from the UCSB campus. I think they may have been turbo Fan powered. Who knows what happened to them but apparently they had promise for ferrying over size loads as is now being recognized by Airbus.

    • Propellers clearly visible so they were at latest turbo-prop airplanes.
      (Indeed, they were built on Boeing Stratocruiser base, first ‘Guppies’ retained piston engines, later Super Guppies had been converted to turboprop engines of two brands – P&W and Allison.)

      Uses may have included flying DC-10 wings from ON to CA, alternative rail transport risked damage including bullet holes (literally – that occurred, and damage form handling by RR especially wide loads like 737 fuselages from Wichita to Renton).
      NASA used them to move chunks of rockets and spacecraft.
      Airbus used them before making the Beluga.

      Most recently Boeing has monsters to transport big chunks to assembly plant location, the Dreamliner.

      (The Stratocruiser was not a great success, low sales (though many Stratofreighters were built for the military – both based on B-29 wings) and high accident rate. (Crew mis-handling after engine failure, some cases of engine coming off and damaging structure. One case of suicide by deranged individual.)