With its maiden flight on September 13, 1994, the popular Beluga cargo aircraft is celebrating this week 20 years of transporting Airbus component parts between Airbus’ European manufacturing sites.
Since 1995, the fleet of 5 Beluga aircraft replaced the ageing Super Guppy transporters in order to supply the Airbus final assembly lines in Toulouse and Hamburg. Today, more than sixty flights are performed each week between eleven sites, carrying crucial parts for all of the Airbus programmes, including the A350 XWB.
The Beluga activities will substantially increase over the next 5 years.
It takes 44 Beluga flight hours to assemble one A350 XWB. Additionally to the main subassemblies flying from the pre-FALs in Germany, France and Spain to Toulouse, there are several flights to transport big elementary parts as for example the wing covers that are manufactured in Germany (Stade) and Spain (Illescas) and assembled in UK (Broughton).
In order to accompany this challenge, Airbus launched in 2011 the Fly 10.000 project. Flight crew numbers and flight hours have grown and loading procedures have been further optimized, with the opening of new integrated loading facilities in Hamburg and Bremen in Germany and Saint-Nazaire in France. Broughton, UK and Getafe, Spain will follow soon. Fly 10.000 should allow the Beluga fleet to double its activities by 2017 (from 5,000 to 10,000 flight hours).
Based on the press release “Beluga celebrates the 20th anniversary of its first flight”