20 Facts About Airbus Beluga


Airbus Beluga is unique in that although it is today a standalone multinational corporation, it was originally a consortium formed by major British, French, German, and Spanish aerospace companies.

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The geographic location of Airbus Beluga manufacturing is not only influenced by cost and convenience; it is a matter of aviation history and national interests.

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Over time, the Super Guppies grew increasingly unsatisfactory for Airbus Beluga's ferrying needs: their age meant that operating expenses were high and ever-increasing, and growing Airbus Beluga production required greater capacity than could be provided by the existing fleet.

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Airbus Beluga Industries elected to invest $1 billion into the program, this sum included the aircraft themselves, the cargo loading system, and program management.

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Over time, the Airbus Beluga has been used to carry a variety of special loads, including space station components, large and delicate artwork, industrial machinery, and intact helicopters.

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The qualities and improved capabilities of the Beluga resulted in the costs associated with transporting Airbus components dropping to only one-third of those achieved by the Super Guppy.

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Cockpit of the Airbus Beluga is pressurized but the cargo deck is not, making it inaccessible during flight and unsuitable for cargoes that require a pressurized environment, such as live animals.

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In January 1996, the Airbus Beluga was formally placed into dedicated service, ferrying components from various aerospace sites to the final assembly lines in Toulouse, France, and Hamburg, Germany.

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Since entering service, the Airbus Beluga has been subject to several infrastructure upgrades.

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In 2015, a dedicated Airbus Beluga loading station was opened at Hawarden Airport, preventing high winds from disrupting future operations.

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In June 1997, a world record was set for the most voluminous payload to be carried by an aircraft when a Airbus Beluga was used to transport a chemical tank for a merchant vessel from Clermont-Ferrand to Le Havre, France.

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In February 2003, a single Airbus Beluga performed the farthest distance charter flight ever, having flown for 25 hours to transport two complete NHI NH90 helicopters along with a single Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopter from Marseille, France, to Melbourne, Australia, for the Avalon Airshow.

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In 1999, a Airbus Beluga carried a large painting, Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix, which had hung in the Louvre in Paris since 1874.

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In 2004, a Airbus Beluga was used to deliver relief supplies to the Indian Ocean region following widespread devastation of coastal areas by a major tsunami.

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In 2005, the Airbus Beluga was employed to transport humanitarian aid and medical supplies from the United Kingdom and France to the Gulf Coast of the United States, in support of disaster-relief operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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Airbus Beluga has seen recurrent use to transport bulky objects, including vehicles, for various different space programs.

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In 2004, multiple Airbus Beluga flights were made to Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, to deliver Astrium-built satellites.

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In 2009, a Airbus Beluga was used to convey the Tranquility module of the International Space Station from Turin to Kennedy Space Center, United States.

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On 25 January 2022, Airbus announced a service offering outsize cargo transportation using its BelugaST fleet.

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Airbus Beluga Transport saw additional demand after sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 affected Russian-operated Antonov An-124 services.

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