With Iconic Whale-Shaped Planes, Airbus Beluga Transport Launches New Airline For Oversized Cargo Transport

This service offers unique capabilities in the aviation industry.

by Mallika Khurana
With Iconic Whale-Shaped Planes, Airbus Beluga Transport Launches New Airline For Oversized Cargo Transport

The aviation world is abuzz with excitement as one of the most unique aircraft, the Airbus Beluga, now spearheads its very own airline. Known for its distinctive whale-like shape and colossal cargo capacity, the Airbus Beluga has captivated plane enthusiasts and industry professionals alike for nearly two decades. Traditionally used to transport large aircraft parts across Europe, the Beluga is now entering a new era with the launch of Airbus Beluga Transport. It is a standalone freight airline dedicated to moving oversized items.

The Evolution Airbus Beluga


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The original fleet was officially named the Airbus Super Transporter. However, it is popularly known as the Beluga due to its resemblance to the white Arctic whale. It first took to the skies in 1994. This fleet comprises five aircrafts, specifically designed to ferry large sections of Airbus planes from factories in countries like France, Germany, the UK, Spain, and Turkey to final assembly lines in Toulouse and Hamburg. 

The Beluga’s design is a marvel, featuring a modified A300-600 with an expanded fuselage. It also has a larger cargo door to accommodate massive payloads. Now, it is being succeeded by the even more advanced Beluga XL. It is based on the modern A330 platform, which marks a significant upgrade, as per the CNN reports.

Not only is it longer and more spacious, capable of carrying both wings of the Airbus A350, but it also promises enhanced efficiency and capacity. Since its introduction in 2018, six Beluga XLs have been built. The latest is set to join Airbus’s internal airline soon. 

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A New Chapter For The Original Fleet


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Despite approaching two decades of service, the Beluga STs have plenty of operational life remaining. According to CNN, one will continue its duty within Airbus, while the other four will now cater exclusively to external clients. These aircraft have occasionally been chartered for special projects, such as transporting helicopters and satellites.

Airbus Beluga Transport offers a rare solution for transporting oversized items that would otherwise require disassembly to fit into conventional cargo planes. The Beluga’s cargo hold is significantly larger — 50% higher and 10% wider than standard freighters like the Boeing 747-8F. 

However, operating the Beluga comes with its own set of challenges. Due to its large head, the aircraft exhibits sensitive behaviour in windy conditions, necessitating special pilot training. Additionally, its range is limited to 3,000 kilometres, requiring refuelling stops for transatlantic flights. 

Airbus Beluga Transport is not aiming to compete with standard commercial freight services. Instead, it will carve out a niche in transporting large, complex items. For those fascinated by unique aircraft, this new airline promises to be a captivating development to watch.

Cover Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons