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June 11, 2024 - 05:44 PM

Airbus Beluga: World’s strangest-looking plane gets its own airline
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he Airbus Beluga, one of the world’s strangest airplanes, now has its own airline.

The odd-looking, oversized cargo plane — a favorite among planespotters around the world — has been in service for close to two decades. It mainly transports aircraft parts between Airbus’ manufacturing facilities spread throughout Europe.

Now, a new version of the Beluga is replacing the original fleet, which has gone on to power a standalone freight airline called Airbus Beluga Transport.

“There are very few options on the market for oversize items,” says Benoit Lemonnier, head of Airbus Beluga Transport. “Most often there’s a need to partially dismantle a payload to make it fit in an aircraft — whereas in the Beluga, it will just fit.”
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The very first Beluga was originally known as the Airbus Super Transporter. But after its nickname — derived from the resemblance to the white Arctic whale — gained popularity, Airbus decided to rename the aircraft Beluga ST, retaining the original name in the acronym.

It first flew in 1994 and entered service in 1995, followed over the years by four more examples, the last of which was rolled out in late 2000.

“The Beluga was developed to transport large sections of Airbus aircraft from its factories in France, Germany, the UK, Spain and Turkey to the final assembly lines located in Toulouse and Hamburg,” explains Lemonnier. “It is a very special design, because it’s actually a transformation of an A300-600 that had its entire head removed and then equipped with special fuselage shells, a bigger door and dedicated flight equipment.”

Before the Beluga, Airbus was using a fleet of Super Guppies, modified versions of 1950s Boeing Stratocruiser passenger planes that had previously been in service with NASA to ferry spacecraft p...

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