Meet the gigantic cargo plane that looks like a whale

Passenger planes are built in sections all over the world gathered in different locations, such as transporting large parts, such as wings and fuselage? The super meet-Transporter – giant space for huge orders.

The plane assembled in the Hangar L34 at Airbus in Toulouse headquarters is, to put it mildly, an unusual animal.

Where most planes have a sleek, elegant hull is this swollen and bloated, ends in a huge, vaulted dome over the cockpit.

His wings, despite a span of more than 60m (197ft), seems to be remarkably short and squat next to that huge body.

Overall, it bears a striking resemblance to a whale, and in fact, it is named after. This is the Airbus Beluga XL, a brand new breed of super-transporter.

The company needs an aircraft like this for transport of large components such as wings and parts of the fuselage, from the factories where they are built to final Assembly lines in Germany, France and China.

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Airbus has a highly specialized production centres in Europe-a legacy of the time, it was a consortium of national aerospace companies. To allow you to work your supply chain effectively, you must be capable of large cargo loads from one place to another with only minimal delay.

But why not just build everything to be done in a place away with the need for the giant Transporter?

“Airbus is a pioneer of the system, the centres of excellence in Europe – now around the world,” says Prof Iain Gray, Director of aviation at Cranfield University.

“You have skilled manpower, joint investments and the ability to draw on the local know-how advantages of a distributed model is well proven.”

In fact, rival aircraft manufacturer Boeing moved from a more centralised system for the Airbus model, says Prof gray.

Therefore, the need for the super-Transporter.


Back in the 1970s, the work was done by variants of the Super-Guppy, sales of Boeing turbo-prop-powered C-97 STRATO freighter – a development that the Second world war, B-29 bomber.

Was replaced in 1995 by a first generation of the Beluga -, ST -, a twin-engine jet, built by Airbus itself. Much greater than that of the Super Guppy, it could also be loaded and unloaded far more quickly.

Airbus currently has five Beluga-STs-service, flying for thousands of hours every year and often make multiple trips per day.

But when the aerospace giant is self-grown, so have its needs.

One of the most important tasks of the Beluga is made to fly, the wings for the new A350 from Broughton in North Wales, where you have to the Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, where the aircraft are assembled.

“Airbus production volume of solid increase,” says Prof gray, so a longer, wider, higher transport plane helps, the speed of the production.


“We can carry more,” says Bertrand George, head of the Beluga-XL-program. “We carry two wings at a time instead of one. So it’s time for the wing stage of the operation, comes from England to Toulouse via Bremen, we will double the productivity of the aircraft.”

In spite of its values, appearance notice, the Beluga XL is a completely new design. In fact, the one prepared in the Hangar L34 life as a much more conventional machine, an A330-200 freighter started.

The Airbus engineers removed the roof and the cockpit and replaced them to create a user-defined structure that required huge cargo space. The feature of Beluga Form was created with the addition of a huge cargo door, the aircraft will be loaded from the front.

The Beluga XL will start test flights later this year, and is in service in 2019. Currently, there are two built, and Airbus five wants to make of them. The existing Belugas gradually up to 2025.

Despite its remarkable size, the Beluga XL, the largest super-transporter plowing through the sky.

Ed Turner/Boeing

Boeing, for example, has his own big beast – the dream lifter, which is used to essential components of the 787 Dreamliner from factories in Japan and Italy, to its final Assembly lines in Washington state, and North Carolina.

If the Airbus looks like a whale, the Boeing most closely resembles that of a snake that has swallowed a cow.

On the Basis of the 747-400, with an enlarged fuselage, it can actually lift a greater weight than the Beluga.

But according to David Learmount, consulting editor of aviation research company, FlightGlobal, such comparisons, the point is not really.More Technology, Business

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“These planes are specially built to move certain components. There is no point in building bigger than you need to be,” he says.

“They build their aircraft for their own purposes.”

Both the Beluga XL, and the dream lifters are designed to maximize cargo volume. The converted 747 has the largest place in the standings, but the big Beluga has a larger cross section to carry so that it is even larger components.

In fact, in terms of their ability to carry heavy weights, both in the shadow of a military Transporter with huge reserves of power-such as the six sports car, the Antonov an – 225.


This massive machine has a ferry service developed in the 1980s to transport the Soviet space. It is almost 84m-long, 20-metres longer than the XL.

It has a wingspan of 88 million and can be up to 250 tons – the equivalent of about five times the Airbus to the maximum. But its cargo space is much narrower and lower.

In other words, if you want a shipment of tanks, the Antonov would be ideal. But the Beluga XL is designed for a single purpose – to large parts of the other levels as efficiently as possible.

So, while the distributed model for the aircraft production remains in the favor that these great beasts of the skies are likely to remain in operation for many years to come.Follow the technology to the Business editor, Matthew wall, on Twitter and Facebook
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