Yesterday, an emergency incident involving one of the world’s largest cargo aircraft was observed. The Airbus Super Transporter A300-600ST, registration F-GSTB, affectionately known as the Beluga, was operating flight BGA-134B from Hamburg Finkenwerder Airport (XFW) to Hawarden Airport (CEG) near the English city of Chester.
As reported by the Aviation Herald, as the plane was making its approach the pilot reported an “in-flight anomaly” of a cracked windshield.
Welsh emergency services were dispatched to the scene and included a duty operational manager in a rapid response vehicle, six fire engines and a medevac helicopter from the Welsh Ambulance Service. The aircraft landed safely on runway 22 at around 15:30 and is still on the ground at Hawarden Airport (CEG).
Why is the Airbus A300-600ST called the Beluga?
If you have to ask that question, then you have never seen Airbus Super Transporter. It’s bulging body and smiling face clearly resembles the white-skinned Arctic Beluga whale. Incidentally, “Beluga” is the Russian word for white.
Since the Beluga transporter entered service with Airbus in 1994, the European planemakers’ production has increased fivefold. This has seen the company’s fleet of five Beluga’s flying more than 60 times per week.
The enormous plane’s job is to transport parts from all of Airbus’ manufacturing plants for assembly in Toulouse, France or Hamburg, Germany.
Currently, Airbus wings are manufactured in the United Kingdom at Airbus’ Broughton site in North Wales and Filton near Bristol. Airbus tail sections and movable surfaces are made in Spain, at Getafe in the center of the country, and at Puerto Real near to Cadiz in the South.
In total Airbus has 11 sites in Europe where the Beluga’s are used to transport aircraft parts.
How many people does it take to fly the Beluga?
All Beluga aircraft operate with a crew of three that includes two pilots and a loadmaster. The Beluga has its whale-like hump because Airbus cut the top section of the aircraft and replaced it with a wider fuselage section that resembles a bubble.
The cockpit was also lowered so that the cargo hold of the aircraft could be loaded and unloaded from the front.
Because of the Beluga’s size, special attention is required when loading cargo as the aircraft reacts differently to most other large jets by moving sideways rather than up and down during turbulence.
With a whopping diameter of 7.1 meters and a maximum payload of 47 tons, the Beluga is ideally suited for carrying aircraft parts like wings and can even fit sections of the fuselage from the new A350.
The Beluga is large enough to carry 36 cars or seven elephants
In layman’s terms, the aircraft’s 1,400 cubic meters of space would be enough for 36 cars or seven elephants.
With the A300 no longer in service new Beluga’s will be constructed using the A330 as a base and unlike the current Beluga’s that can only carry one A350 wing at a time the new ones will be able to transport two.
Looks-wise, the two planes will be almost identical when they start to enter service in 2020 and will be loaded using the same equipment as the older planes.
What do you think may have caused the windshield to crack? Don’t say “Fish Strike.”