View Full Version : Airbus forms Beluga Freight Airline

26th Jan 2022, 07:17
Airbus to create own airline to rent out whale plane
PARIS, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Airbus (AIR.PA) (https://www.reuters.com/companies/AIR.PA) plans to charter out its whale-shaped Beluga transport planes -whose main job until now has been to ferry aircraft parts between its plants in Europe - to help other industries haul urgently-needed outsized machinery by air.

Airbus said the move to rent out spare capacity on its existing Beluga ST and new Beluga XL transporters would lead to the creation of a commercial-cargo airline subsidiary from 2023.

Weeks after ending output of the world's largest passenger jet, the A380, Airbus is planning a new role for what could be the West's largest commercial freighter by volume, the Beluga.

It is a rare example of aerospace 'in-sourcing' tasks from other industries after years of farming out work externally, and if successful could pave the way for other services.

The 100% unit will work a commercial basis, Airbus said.

"It will get its revenues from its sales, and it will bear all its investments and operating costs," a spokesman said.

Analysts say demand for outsized cargoes that can be transported without dismantling them has been rising, partly on the back of weakened supply chains. Logistics managers turn to oversized airplanes when there is no time to use sea lanes.

"Within the past few years, even before COVID-19, we were n approached by several companies asking if our Beluga aircraft were available to perform some charter flights," said Business Development Manager Reza Fazlollahi.

Until recently, Airbus had trouble meeting such demand because the aerospace industry was running at peak capacity.

But analysts say lower output of large passenger jets and an industry-wide slump during the pandemic have meant older Belugas have more time left on the clock than first expected.

"The Beluga ST are only at 50% of their life. They have been designed for 30,000 flight cycles and currently have an average of 15,000," said Philippe Sabo, head of Airbus Transport International. A flight cycle is one take-off and landing.

Airbus cut average output by 40% when the pandemic hit and plans to restore and slightly increase output of singe-aisle jets by summer 2023. But wide-body output is expected to remain around half levels foreseen when Beluga XL was launched in 2014.

Airbus said there was no connection between the project to commercialise the Beluga fleet and planned production, however.


26th Jan 2022, 15:54
Boeing looked at doing the same sort of thing with the Large Cargo Freighter (aka Dreamlifter) back during the early part of the 787 program. On the surface it looked good - even at peak production rates the LCFs fly around empty half the time - but deemed it impractical and not worth the effort.
With the sharply reduced production rates for the 787, it might be worth Boeing/Atlas giving that a second look as well.

26th Jan 2022, 16:21
I think the market for oversized and unpressurized cargo is quite small and already covered by the An124 and An225.

For example it would be nice for ASML to ship lithography machines in one piece, but I doubt they can handle temperature variations or not being pressurized.

26th Jan 2022, 17:04
There are a couple problems using the LCF for regular cargo. It takes special equipment to swing the tail and there are only 7 or 8 locations on the planet that have it. Airports aren’t going to want to invest in something that is only going to be used maybe once a month. And the main deck cargo area isn’t pressurized. So anything boxed up tightly may pop open. And finally the main deck cargo area doesn’t have a normal cargo roller floor. So you can’t just push a bunch of ULDs in. The 787 parts ride in special cradles designed for those parts.

Less Hair
26th Jan 2022, 19:17
Could it be some smart early move to cover the possible end of Volga-Dnepr's An-124 availability?

26th Jan 2022, 19:18
On a similar note, it looks like the Beluga needs a special loader that fits over the cockpit.

Less Hair
26th Jan 2022, 19:24
They will carry one onboard for up to 20 tonnes. With a more robust still mobile loading platform they are good to go with 40 tons.

27th Jan 2022, 09:24
Beluga was and is doing one-off charters to various airports, so loading/unloading is somehow solved, maybe not ideal but it works. Beluga cargo deck cross section is considerably larger than AN124/225 so it has a niche.
However as far as I've heard Begula is operating on some sort of dispensation given to Airbus as OEM because aircraft has only EASA Restricted Type Certificate, not full TC. I am wondering whether a "separate" commercial cargo airline can operate an aircraft with restricted TC?

27th Jan 2022, 09:59
They will probably have the "commercial airline" wet lease the aircraft from the current operator for each operation.
In any case , companies will not build an object that needs a beluga to transport them if they did not expect to use a beluga to transport them. So it might take some time for business to pick up.

29th Jan 2022, 04:43
So, won't this overlap with what Antonov does with AN-124?

I can imagine Antonov will have lower labor costs even with their huge crews. Probably have worse fuel burn but maybe better range since A300 Belugas didn't need to have a lot of range for what they did.

Seems they will be entering a competitive market.