Size matters

Airbus last week announced its selection of major suppliers for the Beluga XL, the new upsized version of the Beluga air transporter the manufacturer has long used to transport subassemblies for production of some of its aircraft. We list the suppliers at the end of this post, but the announcement reminded us that while standard production freighters (and the bellies of the new generation of widebody passenger aircraft) are the mainstay of the air freight business, none of them comes even close to being as cool as the Beluga and the DreamLifter. And, of course, the An-124.

So, given that we’ve been entirely too serious here lately, what with charts, and lists of orders, and analyses of air freight demand, it’s time for a few pictures of freighters you don’t get to see every day.

The Beluga: The new Beluga was launched in November 2014 and named Beluga XL for its increased size compared to the current Belugas in operation. The additional one meter in width and six meters in length will allow the Beluga XL to carry two A350 XWB wings at a time, twice that of the current Beluga.

The XL, will be based on the A330-200, whereas the earlier Belugas, were based on the A300-600. The first of five Beluga XLs will enter into service in 2019.

Part of the first Qatar Airways A350, enroute to final assembly

Part of the first Qatar Airways A350, enroute to final assembly

 

 

Artist's conception of the new Beluga XL

Artist’s conception of the new Beluga XL

 

The DreamLifter: Or, as we prefer to call it, the Boeing Large Cargo Freighter or LCF.  Boeing had four 747-400 passenger aircraft converted to oversize transport configuration in order to speed the movement of subassemblies for the production of the 787.  As big as the Beluga is, the LCF is a step beyond. And the idea of slicing it in half, and hinging the two halves was (almost) a step into the future.

The Boeing Large Cargo Freighter, with its swingtail open

The Boeing Large Cargo Freighter, with its swingtail open

 

 

Is this a freighter aircraft? Or the interior of a Catherdral?

Is this a freighter aircraft? Or the interior of a Catherdral?

 

And finally, the old workhorse, the An-124: Which was given new life recently as part of a Letter of Intent signed by Boeing and the Volga-Dnepr Group. The big news in the LOI was an intended order for twenty 747-8Fs, but in the small print was a clause stipulating the addition of the An-124 heavylift freighter “to the long term logistics support for Boeing and its partners.” Cargo Facts believes Boeing wants to lock in An-124 support because some of the subassemblies for the soon-to-enter-production 787-10 will not fit in the DreamLifter.

Loading a BE-103 aircraft into an An-124

Loading a BE-103 aircraft into an An-124

 

 

An-124, ready for loading at night.

An-124, ready for loading at night.

And finally, as promised, the suppliers for the new Beluga XL.

  • Stelia Aerospace, has been selected to design and build the Nose Fuselage & Main Cargo Door (which gives the Beluga XL its signature shape).
  • Aernnova has been selected to design and build the Rear Fuselage & Dorsal Fin.
  • Deharde, in partnership with P3 Voith Aerospace, has been selected to design and build the Typical Fuselage of the cargo bay.
  • Aciturri has been selected to design and build the Horizontal Tail Plane (HTP) box extension & Auxiliary Fins.

Airbus said further suppliers were being selected and would be announced at a later date.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi,
    if I read the above correctly it states today’s Beluga is based on the A330. While the A330 shares the same fuselage width with the A300-600 todays Beluga is still based on the A300-600.

  2. David Harris says:

    Hi Oliver. Thanks for the comment. Since you know far more about this than I do (or than anyone else does, for that matter), I’ve corrected my post to show that the old Belugas were based on the A300-600 and the new ones on the A330-200.

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