Airbus A300-600ST Beluga
The Airbus Transport International subsidiary of Airbus operates a fleet of five A300-600ST known as Belugas - one of the world's largest cargo carriers. These aircraft perform regular airlift duties for Airbus, carrying fuselage sections and wings between the different European production sites, and they also are made available for chartered commercial flights.
A wide range of commercial charter missions have been performed by Airbus Transport International, from airlifting a 17.6-metre-long x 6.5-meter-diameter chemical tank weighing 39 metric tons to transporting a large French masterpiece painting. Space hardware manufacturers use the Beluga for reliable charter flights with payloads that have included space station modules, launch vehicle hardware and the most delicate satellite payloads. A pallet-mounted heating module provides a comfortable environment for spacecraft and other cargo that requires temperature-controlled conditions. In addition, the Beluga offers unique transport capabilities for the military airlift market, providing the largest main deck cargo compartment of any aircraft available today.
The Beluga is a highly modified version of the A300-600 and features one of the widest fuselage cross-sections of any aircraft, civil or military. Its main deck cargo volume is greater than the Lockheed C-5A Galaxy, Antonov AN-124 and Boeing C-17. Tailored for the transport of heavy and voluminous cargo loads, the Super Transporter is able to carry a payload of 47 metric tonnes (103,616 lb.) over a range of 900 nautical miles (1,667 km).
SATIC prepared several "A340 Mega Transporter" engineering studies based on the -300 and -600 variants. One of many reasons for this was so that Airbus could increase the potential number of candidates for A380 final assembly plant. There were studies for a A340-300ST / A340-600ST (both utilising extended Beluga cargo holds) as well as a A340-600STE / A340-600STE configuration (with extended and increased cargo hold diameter) on the way. Of which the last mentioned STE version would have been able to fly around the over sized A380 components.Eventually, the sea-road transportation to TLS was chosen based on cost and [a little] on politics. According to SATIC there were no engineering showstoppers for the A340MT. The cost issue arose from the expensive base airframe (in the end the -600) married with an expensive modification (a 10m wide bubble). To make the cost issue worse, Airbus only required two airplanes (compared to say, the initial four A306STs that Airbus ordered in the early 1990s).
The Beluga features one of the widest fuselage cross-sections of any aircraft, civil or military, and its 1,400 sq. metre main deck cargo volume is greater than the Lockheed C-5A Galaxy, Antonov An-124 and Boeing C-17. A full range of outsized payloads can be handled by the Beluga, from International Space Station modules to huge chemical tanks. With a cylindrical cargo compartment cross-section 7.1 meters wide X 7.1 meters high, the Beluga can carry large helicopters with little or no strip-down/disassembly required. The cargo deck's overall length of 37.7 meters allows long payloads to be handled with ease. Relocating the Super Transporter's cockpit below its main deck level allows for easy roll-on/roll-off of cargo. The large single-piece main cargo door swings upward to provide access to the cargo compartment and provides unrestricted use of the entire main deck cargo compartment volume.
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