Airbus Beluga Transport, a subsidiary of the European aircraft manufacturer dedicated to air cargo operations, has obtained its own Air Operator Certificate (AOC).
The new operator will use a fleet of three Beluga ST aircraft for on-demand cargo missions, mostly those requiring the oversized cargo capabilities of this unique type of aircraft. A fourth aircraft of the same type will join the fleet shortly, with the possible addition of a fifth in the future.
The Airbus Beluga ST is a heavily modified Airbus A300-600 that has had the upper part of the fuselage cut and an additional semi-circular fuselage section added on top in order to create an extra spacious cargo bay. This gives the aircraft the capacity to carry oversized cargo loads.
Airbus has used the Beluga STs internally for decades, ferrying aircraft sections, parts, and components between the groups’ multiple European factories. However, following the entry into service of the new Beluga XL, a modernized version of the Beluga based on the A330-200 airframe, in 2020, the manufacturer realized the opportunity to dedicate the legacy Beluga ST fleet to other missions outside its regular supply chain operations. This resulted in Airbus setting up a specific subsidiary to market belly capacity on its Beluga ST fleet in 2022.
So far Airbus Beluga Transport has serviced other companies in the Airbus group, such as Airbus helicopters, using the Airbus Transport International (ATI) AOC. Now, the idea is to offer services to third party companies outside, even outside of the aerospace industry.
The Beluga ST provides a unique volumetric capacity that few other aircraft can match.
The new airline has its operational base at Toulouse-Francazal airport and, in its early stages, will continue operating along the regular Airbus supply chain routes, such as those linking Toulouse-Blagnac (TLS) to Hamburg Fineknwerder (XFW), Sevilla (SVQ), and other airports.
However, as the project consolidates, Airbus Beluga Transport is expected to begin flying longer missions in other parts of the world, even though these may require several stops due to the limited range of the Beluga ST.
Airbus Beluga Transport is currently hiring pilots, not an easy task since the Beluga is a unique aircraft. Even pilots with some A300 or A310 experience will have to undergo additional training to obtain a Beluga ST type rating.