So meta. The current Beluga hauling Beluga XL parts
When living large is just not good enough, you need to live XL –Â Beluga XL that is!
Airbus is in process of upgrading their “oversize cargo airlifter” and recently shared some photos of its progress. The new model will replace the five currentÂ Beluga STs (for Super Transporter) that are used to fly aircraft parts around Europe to Airbus final assembly sites in Hamburg and Toulouse.
A mockup of the new Airbus Beluga XL
I typically find two reactions with the current Airbus Beluga. Either “OMG that is freaking awesome” or “what the hell, that ugly plane?” Sure, it might be a look like a plane thatÂ only a mother could love, but I find it rather beautiful.
Airbus Beluga 1 sits in the morning sun
Living in Seattle, I get to see the Boeing Dreamlifter quite often. It is an odd-looking plane with an attitude that I just love. I had never been able to see its counterpart, the Airbus Beluga, and when I heard it was going to be attending Hamburg Airport Days, I was excited to get my firstÂ look.
When entering the event, I looked around and couldn’t findÂ it, but I was assured that the plane was there — somewhere. I figured that it is not exactly the type of aircraft that can easily hide.
Sure enough, as I turned a corner… there it was. One big, bold, and beautiful plane. Not like supermodel beautiful, but a sort of beauty that… well, only an AvGeek could love.
The view from the main cargo deck, into the crown at Hamburg
As I walked around and took photos, I was asked by my Lufthansa hosts if I had any questions. “Yes, can I tour the inside?” Being the gracious folksÂ that they were, they said that they would see what they could do. Knowing that it might be challenging to find an Airbus representative and arrange a media tour at the last minute, I kept my expectations in check. Of course I was hoping for the best.
Shortly after, I was told that we could tour the plane, but it had to be quick (like five minutes-quick). I was asked if I was still interested, all I could do was grow a big grin and say, “heck yes, let’s do it!”
Out comes the nose section of an A320 aircraft from an Airbus A300-600 Beluga “Supertransporter” – Photo: Olivier CABARET | Flickr CC
This is an excerpt from Paul Thompson’s story on NYCAviation.com…
Throughout Airbusâ€™ first two decades in business, its competitors at Boeing would joke that â€œEvery Airbus is delivered on the wings of a Boeing.â€ That statement was both accurate and fair, being that Airbus had to use modified Boeing Stratocruisers known as Super Guppies. Yes, Airbus was transporting parts for its own jets inside 1940s-era planes built by its only real competitor.
As time progressed, Airbus finally resolved the issue by designing its own transport based on one of their own planes â€“ the A300 twin-engine jet.
A Beluga in the air looks almost like a Beluga whale out of water – Photo: Ken Fielding
The resulting A300-600ST (ST for Super Transporter) became commonly known as â€œThe Belugaâ€ for its bubble-like forehead resembling the Beluga whale. To accomplish the plane that seems to defy every law of aerodynamics, Airbus employed some major structural changes.
BONUS:Â Super Guppy Delivers Space Shuttle Trainer to the Museum of Flight
Starting at the nose, Airbus lowered the cockpit below the cargo deck so that the cargo area could be loaded without having to disconnect any of the vital electric and hydraulic lines running to the rest of the plane. The design kept the A300â€™s lower fuselage, wings and landing gears, but added a cavernous cargo area on top.
A320 noses are unloaded from the Beluga – Photo: Olivier CABARET | Flickr CC
At 49,440 cubic feet, the Belugaâ€™s cargo volume ranks second between Boeingâ€™s 747-LCF Dreamlifter (65,000 cubic feet) and the Antonov An-225 (45,909 cubic feet). The Beluga is hampered by its weight lifting capability, which is only 47 tons (103,617 pounds) or roughly the weight of an empty 737. Its cargo bay measures 25 feet in diameter. The Beluga has a maximum takeoff weight of just over 341,000 pounds, while the Dreamlifter tops out at 803,000 pounds.
BONUS:Â Antonov AN-225 Photo Tour
In comparison, the 747-8 freighter is capable of lifting over one million pounds, and the An-225 can lift over 1.4 million pounds. The Beluga is also incapable of hauling sections of the A380 due to its size. Those parts are still taken by barge or road convoy to the A380â€™s final assembly location in Toulouse.
Continue readingÂ On the Wings of Giants: Airbus Banks on the Beluga on NYCAviation.com