By Bjorn Fehrm
January 25, 2022, ©. Leeham News: Airbus has decided to bring the original Beluga fleet, BelugaST (A300 based), on the market for outsized freight transport, as the newer BelugaXL (A330 based) caters for Airbus internal needs.
It has a larger cross-section than the AN-124, a tad longer freight compartment, and loads outsized but less heavy cargo. When all BelugaXLs are delivered, the ST will be spun off to a dedicated external freight company, Airbus Beluga Transport.
BelugaST for outsized cargo
The first outside customer flight has already taken place, transporting a Helicopter from Merignac, France to Kobe, Japan for a customer. To transport a complete helicopter without dismantling has a large value for the customer.
The BelugaST is suited for this kind of transport. It has a larger load cross-section than the present largest airlifter, AN-124 (if we exclude the very large and unique AN225). It’s especially the height which is 60% higher, enabling some very spacious transports, Figure 1.
It will be a matter of availability and running cost for cargo that fits both. The BelugaST has half the empty weight of the AN-124, so it should be cheaper in terms of fuel burn. There should be a market for both types as air transport brings many advantages for spacious cargo.
The first missions will use the existing Airbus loading and unloading equipment, but a loading platform that can fly with the BelugaST is being developed, Figure 2.