Airbus Outlines Plans To Use Beluga Aircraft to Serve Outsized-Cargo Market

Article produced alongside Tomos Howells

LONDON – In a media briefing, Airbus has today outlined plans to use its BelugaST and BelugaXL aircraft to serve the outsized-cargo market.

Plans for this will begin with two of its BelugaST aircraft, being F-GSTB and F-GSTC.

This move is expected to come following the full introduction of the BelugaXL over the last few years.

Commenting on the news was Philippe Sabo, the Head of ATI & Air Oversize Transport at Airbus:

“The Beluga’s wider cross-section will open up new markets and new logistical possibilities for customers. In the case of loading helicopters – not having to dismantle them first – really is a plus.”

“Similarly, the largest commercial aircraft engines can be accommodated in a fully-dressed configuration.”

Airbus also confirmed that once all six BelugaXL aircraft have been commissioned and ready to operate, the five STs will be transferred to a newly-created, subsidiary airline, with the name yet to be confirmed.

“The new airline will be flexible and agile to address the needs of external worldwide markets, Sabo added.

Timetable for the Plans

During the conference, Airbus announced a timeline for the expansion of this new wing of the manufacturer.

Operations will begin this year with two of the five BelugaSTs, with this rising to three and five in 2023-24 respectively.

Airbus did asterisk in its plans for 2023-24, that the BelugaXL may be used for some missions, which is most likely dependent on the size of cargo being handled.

In response to a question posed by AviationSource, Sabo mentioned that operations would be out of its Toulouse plant, but did state this could consider storing cargo closer to the customer in the meantime in order to bring such costs down.

What part of the market is Airbus aiming for here?

Compared to other handlers of cargo, Airbus will be in the middle of the market in terms of the dimensions of the cargo it can offer.

Whilst this is the case, Airbus would more than likely be able to produce cheaper operating costs for its customers as chartering the likes of the Antonov AN124 and AN225 would be more expensive.

The BelugaST can handle around 40 tons of cargo per trip, with the BelugaXL offering 44 tons capacity per trip.

Airbus has already completed its first successful mission, which was the delivery of a large helicopter from Marignane to Kobe, Japan.

Flexibility with the Beluga Cargo Capability

Airbus has implemented a multi-purpose pallet that will be used on the Belugas to enable several missions in a row without having to come back to the home base for pallet change.

The design of this has been completed and can handle quite a substantial number of cargo types with this new design.

The onboard cargo loaders will be available from June 2022 and will be usable for payloads less than 20 tons and less than 12 meters long, thus bringing further innovations to the way the Belugas can operate.


What remains clear is that this move from Airbus will better utilize the cargo handling side of its business.

With the BelugaXLs mainly taking over the commercial aircraft delivery space, and the ST only halfway through its operational life at present, this does seem like a good business move.

Offering the dimensions that it does, it can compete with other competitors sufficiently in order to provide the best unit cost for its customers going forward.

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