Airbus Beluga – Airbus A300-600ST Super Transporter is a special wide-body Airbus turbojet cargo aircraft for transportation of bulky cargo.
One of the features of Airbus in its corporate chain was the scatter of the main production sites in Europe, primarily France and Germany. To quickly efficiently transfer aircraft parts between factories, cargo planes were used, such as Super Guppy, a four-engine piston cargo plane with a modified fuselage. For some time this aircraft coped with its task, but the increase in production volumes, increased transportation costs, and the emergence of new large airliners, such as the A300, A310, and, especially, the A330, made this aircraft obsolete.
At Airbus, it was decided to create a new transport, in which three main parameters should be laid – the speed of transportation, the ability to transport sections of large diameter, and the minimum possible time for loading/unloading operations.
The airliner A300-600 became the basis for the modification, and it, under the ST – Special Transport program, in many respects similar to Super Guppy, underwent serious “tuning”. The fuselage was completely redesigned: the cockpit was lowered, which made it possible to make the cargo compartment with a direct floor for the entire length of the fuselage. The bow of the cargo compartment opened and allowed to load bulky goods in 45 minutes (this took 2 hours for Super Guppy). The wing, engines and most of the avionics were inherited from the base A300. The name Beluga comes from the shape of the body of the aircraft, which resembles a whale beluga (beluga in English and some other languages; not to be confused with beluga).
Due to the very large transport compartment with a working volume of about 1,400 m³, Beluga can transport goods with a total weight of up to 47 tons. The transport compartment is 37.7 m long and 5.43 m wide. The fuselage diameter is 7.40 m. With these dimensions, Beluga takes on board a pair of Airbus A330 wings assembly or most parts of the Airbus A319 body.
In total, 5 copies of the Airbus A300-600ST were produced, which work almost exclusively for Airbus itself. For special transport operations, it is possible to directly rent a car from a subsidiary of Airbus Transport International, which is periodically used by the military structures of NATO countries.
Airbus is conducting research work on the development of the next transport model based on the A340. As well as for Beluga, the aircraft’s tasks will include transportation of A380 components (wing consoles, fuselage). Currently, these parts are transported with great difficulty by ships and heavy tractors to Toulouse for final assembly.
- Type: special transport aircraft
- Power plant: two double-circuit turbojet engines General Electric CF6-80C2A8 23 000 kg each
- Maximum payload: 47.6 t
- Practical ceiling: 10,700 m
- Range: 5,200 km
- Maximum take-off weight: 160 t
- Cruising speed: 765 km / h
- Wingspan: 44.84 m
- Wing Area: 260.00 sq. M. m
- Length: 56.16 m
- Height: 17.25 m