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Amazing images of world's biggest transport plane

Last updated on: March 25, 2013 14:14 IST

Amazing images of world's biggest transport plane

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Featuring one of the most voluminous cargo holds of any civil or military aircraft flying today, the Airbus Beluga offers a unique way to transport oversized air cargo.

The Beluga was developed to carry complete sections of Airbus aircraft from different production sites around Europe to the final assembly lines in Toulouse or Hamburg.

Let's take a look at some amazing photos of Beluga.

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Image: Airbus Beluga transport plane flies in the evening sky after taking off from the Airbus facility in Finkenwerder near Hamburg in Germany.
Photographs: Christian Charisius/Reuters

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Several major aircraft manufacturers are multinational, and it is not unusual for them to have plants in widely separated locations.

Airbus is unique in that it is a consortium formed by the major French, German, British and Spanish aerospace companies.

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Image: Airbus Industries' Super Transporter the Beluga seen in flight at the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget in France.
Photographs: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters
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The geographic location of Airbus manufacturing is not only influenced by cost and convenience, it is also a matter of aviation history and national interest. Each of the Airbus partners makes an entire aircraft section, which must be transported to a central location for final assembly.

The details vary from one model to another, but the general arrangement is for the wings and landing gear to be made in the UK, the tail and doors in Spain, the fuselage in Germany, and the nose and centre-section in France, with final assembly in either Toulouse, France; Hamburg, Germany; or Seville, Spain.

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Image: Airbus Beluga, the largest cargo plane in the world, flies near the French flag at the Paris Air Show.
Photographs: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters
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Construction of Beluga began in September 1992, and the first flight took place in September 1994. After 335 hours of test flying, restricted certification was awarded in October 1995, and the A300-600ST Beluga entered service.

Four more Belugas were constructed, at a rate of roughly one per year, and all five remain in regular service.

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Image: A mini-helicopter seen in the Airbus Industries' Beluga cargo plane near Paris.
Photographs: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters
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Their primary task is to carry Airbus components ready for final assembly across Europe to Toulouse or Hamburg, but they are also available for charter work, and have been used to carry a variety of special loads, including space station components, large, very delicate artwork, industrial machinery, and entire helicopters.

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Image: Airbus Beluga A300-600 seen at Nice airport in France.
Photographs: Eric Gaillard/Reuters
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The A300-600ST's freight compartment is 7.4 m (24 ft) in diameter and 37.7 m (124 ft) long; maximum payload is 47 tonnes.

At 155 tonnes its maximum take-off weight is comparable to a normal A300, showing that the Beluga was intended for large but relatively light cargo.

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Image: Its maximum take-off weight is comparable to a normal A300.
Photographs: Eric Gaillard/Reuters
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The main deck cargo volume of the Beluga is greater than that of the C-5 Galaxy or the Antonov An-124 but still smaller than Antonov An-225.

However it is restricted by cargo weight capacity of 47 tonnes, compared to 122.5 tonnes for the C-5 Galaxy and 150 tonnes for the An-124.

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Image: Interior view of an Airbus A 300 ST Super Transporter Beluga which stands on the tarmac at the Brussels' International Airport in Belgium.
Photographs: Reuters
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Despite this width, the Beluga cannot carry most fuselage parts of the A380, which have to be brought by ship and road usually. The Beluga has been used to transport a few A380 components.

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Image: Despite its width, the Beluga cannot carry most fuselage parts of the A380.
Photographs: Reuters
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In 1999 it carried a large painting Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix, which had hung in the Louvre in Paris since 1874. It flew from Paris to Tokyo via Bahrain and Calcutta in about 20 hours.

The large canvas, measuring 2.99 metres high by 3.62 metres long, was too large to fit into a Boeing 747. It was transported in the vertical position inside a special pressurised container provided with isothermal protection and an anti-vibration device

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Image: A view of Beluga at the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget in France.
Photographs: Charles Platiau/Reuters
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The Beluga (also known as the A300-600ST Super Transporter) was developed to carry complete sections of Airbus aircraft from different production sites around Europe to the final assembly lines in Toulouse or Hamburg.

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Image: Beluga was developed to carry sections of Airbus aircraft from different production sites.
Photographs: Charles Platiau/Reuters
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The five-aircraft fleet of Belugas is operated by Airbus Transport International. In addition to serving the internal transportation needs of Airbus, ATI offers Belugas on a charter basis to third parties.

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Image: Five-aircraft fleet of Belugas is operated by Airbus Transport International
Photographs: Charles Platiau/Reuters
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ATI ensures a high level of customer satisfaction with loading, unloading, and delivery designed to be fast, safe, flexible, and reliable - as demonstrated by years of successful operations throughout the world.

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Image: A view of Beluga at Berlin's Schoenefeld airport in Germany.
Photographs: Reuters
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A wide range of commercial charter missions have been performed by Airbus Transport International, including airlifting a 17.6-metre-long x 6.5-metre-diameter chemical tank weighing 39 metric tonnes.

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Image: Wide range of commercial charter missions have been performed by Beluga.
Photographs: Reuters
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Space hardware manufacturers use the Beluga for reliable charter flights with payloads that have included space station modules, launch vehicle hardware and the most delicate satellite payloads.

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Image: A view of Beluga at Berlin's Schoenefeld airport in Germany.
Photographs: Christian Charisius/Reuters
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A pallet-mounted heating module provides a comfortable environment for spacecraft and other cargo that requires temperature-controlled conditions.

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Image: An Airbus Beluga transport plane passes the church of Neuenfelde as it turns at the end of the runway at the Airbus facility in Finkenwerder near Hamburg in Germany.
Photographs: Christian Charisius/Reuters
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In addition, the Beluga offers unique transport capabilities for the military airlift market, providing the largest main deck cargo compartment of any aircraft available today.

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Image: A Beluga transport plane belonging to Airbus arrives at the company's Broughton site in North Wales, Great Britain.
Photographs: Phil Noble/Reuters
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Beluga is a highly modified version of the A300-600 and features one of the widest fuselage cross-sections of any aircraft, civil or military.

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Image: Workers check the first pair of wings for a new tanker aircraft after they were loaded onto a Beluga transport plane in North Wales, Great Britain.
Photographs: Phil Noble/Reuters
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Its main deck cargo volume is greater than the Lockheed C-5A Galaxy, Antonov AN-124 and Boeing C-17.

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Image: First pair of wings for a new tanker aircraft after they were loaded onto a Beluga transport plane in North Wales, Great Britain.
Photographs: Christian Charisius/Reuters
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Tailored for the transport of heavy and voluminous cargo loads, the Super Transporter is able to carry a payload of 47 metric tonnes over a range of 900 nautical miles (1,667km).

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Image: An Airbus Beluga transport plane at the Airbus facility in Finkenwerder near Hamburg in Germany.
Photographs: Christian Charisius/Reuters
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Beluga is ideally suited to move delicate space hardware. Its voluminous cargo compartment and a lift capability of over 47 metric tonnes ensure that large loads can be accommodated easily and carried in a safe, secure environment.


Image: An Airbus Beluga transport jet flies across the River Elbe on its landing approach to the Airbus facility in Hamburg, Germany.
Photographs: Christian Charisius/Reuters
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