Airbus Beluga Returns to US Skies
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Airbus Beluga Returns to US Skies

DALLAS – Something big has landed at Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB)—the Airbus BelugaST, one of the world’s largest transport aircraft.

The aircraft is scheduled to arrive at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) early tomorrow morning to deliver an Airbus-built satellite that is part of a key forthcoming space mission.

This is a momentous event for Airbus as it is the first time the Beluga has returned to the US and the KSC in 14 years. In addition, as the Beluga arrives, another Airbus-built satellite will sit atop a rocket set to launch from KSC at midnight today.

Image: Airbus

BelugaST Operations

The Airbus Beluga fleet has been operating successfully for more than 20 years. The type was exclusively dedicated to the transport of structures for Airbus aircraft.

Then, in December 2021, Airbus launched its cargo division using its A300-600ST fleet, with its own Air Operator Certificate (AOC) and personnel, to offer a solution to outsized freight transportation services worldwide.

Photo: Airbus

The launch of the general oversized air freight service took place during the last week of the year, when Beluga “No. 3” delivered a new helicopter from Airbus Helicopters’ manufacturing site in Marignane, France, halfway across the world to Kobe in Japan.

Along the way, the Beluga stopped to refuel at various transit points – including Warsaw (in Poland), Novosibirsk (in Russia), and Seoul (in Korea). Notably, the whole helicopter could be accommodated inside the Beluga without any prior disassembly — only needing its long rotor blades to be folded back.

At the end of July, Brazil received for the first time the Airbus A300-600ST as it performed its first cargo operation to the region transporting three helicopters.

Airbus transport International F-GSTB Airbus A300-600ST Beluga at CEG. Photo: Daniel Crawford/Airways

Florida Touchdown

Orlando Sanford International Airport was built as Naval Air Station Sanford, a Master Jet Base for carrier-based attack and reconnaissance aircraft, and was used by the U.S. Navy until 1969. The distance between SFB and KSC is 39 miles.

Airways will cover a press conference that will be held Monday at 7 a.m. EST to learn more about the satellite mission and Beluga transport from Airbus executives.

If you’re in the Orlando area, grab your cameras and shoot some images of the BelugaST at SFB or tomorrow at KSC and share them with us on our social media channels, and we will update Monday’s coverage with the best shots!

For now, you can follow the travels of the Airbus Beluga on Twitter @Airbus and @AirbusintheUS.

Featured image: Airbus transport international F-GSTD A300-600ST at Hawarden airport, the UK. Photo: Daniel Crawford/Airways

Chief Online Editor
Chief Online Editor at Airways Magazine, AVSEC interpreter, and visual artist. I am a grammar and sci-fi literature geek who loves editing text and film.

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