Most people outside of Western Europe, have probably never seen what is considered to be the world's most volumetrically cavernous aircraft.Other than when the plane is charted to make a specialised flight, this aircraft, that resembles a dolphin or whale, spends most of it's working hours flying the skies of western Europe.
Built by Airbus in 1994 to carry complete sections of Airbus aircraft parts from their production sites at Toulouse in France, Hamburg in Germany, Seville in Spain and Boughton in Wales,the company now own and run a fleet of five.
Each plane took around a year to build, with different parts made at their different plants within Europe, and finally constructed in Toulouse.
The aircraft measures a staggering 56.15 m ( 184ft ) in length, 17.24 m ( 56ft ) in height, and has a wingspan of 44.84m ( 147ft ).
Inside it's super cargo deck the craft measures an awesome 37.7m in length, 7.1m in width and 37.7m in height with an overall square metreage of 1,400.
Empty, this monster of the skies weighs 86 tonnes and has a volumetric payload weight of 47 tonnes.
The craft has the widest fuselage of any plane in the world, civil or military, giving rise to it enabling to carry whole helicopters and international space station modules.
The Beluga being loaded with the Columbus Module in March 2006.
The A300 - 600st Super Transporter, to give it it's official title, is known as the Beluga, owing to it's unusually shaped nose, which opens upwards to allow it's vast cargoes to enter, which is accessed by way of a 100 tonne capacity,32 ft long, 24 wheeled chassis, ramp.
The craft is fitted with 2 x General Electric CF6 802A8 engines which give the craft a crusing speed of 0.7 mach, or 912.47 km per hour / 567 mph at an altitude of 35,000 ft ( 10,670 m ).
It's fuel capacity is 15,600 gallons / 59.052 litres.
The craft is manned by a three man crew, 2 pilots and a loadmaster, who has the ability to load or unload it's enormous cargoes in less than 20 minutes.
The mighty Beluga in flight, which resembles a whale or dolphin in the sky.
The Beluga is designed first and foremost to carry light weight aircraft parts for it's mother company, but over the years it has been contracted to carry some rather unusual loads, including two intact NHI NH9 helicopters to Australia, the oversized painting Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix, from Paris to Tokyo, a complete Eurocopter Tiger helicopter and several fully intact light aircraft to an airshow in the U.S.A.
The Beluga at Hamburg Airport, Germany.
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© D.B.Bellamy. April 2010
All images courtesy of wikimedia commons.