CNN, which makes a case for the plane as the “world’s strangest-looking airplane, got an inside look of the modified A300 plane.
The jet debuted in 1994, and there are only five in existence. Airbus uses those A300-600ST (“Super Transporter”) planes to help fly large plane pieces to its assembly lines in Toulouse, France, and Hamburg, Germany.
CNN: Airbus’ Beluga: Inside the world’s strangest-looking airplane (photos included)
CNN notes that the Beluga, for example, is able to hold the wings of an A340 widebody or transport the fuselage section of its newest widebody jet, the A350.
Such oversized parts would otherwise be difficult – or downright impossible – to fit into typical transport aircraft.
Boeing, of course, has its own special transport plane for flying oversized items. Boeing’s is a modified 747, which was designed largely for transporting pieces of the Dreamliner – which explains the “Dreamlifter” name that Boeing gave to its equivalent of the A300-600ST.
The Dreamlifter has had its own notoriety lately, when one of the Boeing jets mistakenly landed at a small airport near Wichita instead of a nearby Air Force base.
ARCHIVES: Boeing jumbo jet takes off after landing at wrong airport (November 2013)
DREAMLIFTER PHOTOS: Jumbo jet takes off after landing at wrong airport (November 2013)
As for Airbus’ Beluga, CNN gives some background as part of its inside look. The network notes Airbus modified its A300-600 jets for supersize transport by cutting the top section of the aircraft and adding a bubble-shaped additional fuselage to the airframe.
CNN continues, saying “the cockpit was lowered, making it possible for the cargo hold to be loaded and unloaded through the front of the aircraft.”
“The result,” CNN says, “is an incredibly spacious cargo hold.”
And an aircraft that’s fascinating to look at.