Beluga Gets a New Home

Airbus is increasing uplift capacity across its transport network with six new loading hangars dedicated to the company’s five Beluga aircraft. The first hangar was now inaugurated at the aircraft producer’s Hamburg plant.

The first Beluga hangar opened its sliding doors at the plane maker’s Hamburg plant  /  source: Airbus
The first Beluga hangar opened its sliding doors at the plane maker’s Hamburg plant / source: Airbus

These new facilities will help the Beluga freighters increase their flight hour totals to support Airbus’ latest production rate increases, because additional transports are needed to supply the decentralized manufacturing sites with parts and components for the series production of jetliners. The hangar program goes along with the start of the A350 XWB series production, thus minimizing the impact of weather conditions during loading and unloading processes. “Due to harsh weather conditions during the winter months, there are days when the aircraft cannot operate because wind speeds of over 30 knots are too strong for the hinges of its main cargo door,” explains Friedhelm Preuss, line station manager at Airbus’ Hamburg plant.

Weatherproof loading
Thanks to the new hangar, this obstacle is now blown out of the way. The facility enables the aircraft to position its nose front including its wide loading hatch into the facility with the Beluga’s rest, including wings, engines and tail, remaining outside.  Sliding doors, shaped to fit the cargo carrier’s fuselage, encircle the aircraft in the docking area. During unloading, components are moved onto three 35-metre long sledges – known as mobile racks – and transported outside the hangar to the delivery ramp using a cargo boarder.

Six hangars for five aircraft
The second Beluga loading hangar will open at Airbus’ Bremen, Germany production site – to be followed by the European plane maker’s facilities in Saint-Nazaire, France; Broughton, UK; and Getafe, Spain; along with a second hangar in Hamburg. The hangars’ construction varies depending on the local environment, but is based on a modular kit jointly developed by the design managers from all the different sites. The docking area design, however, is identical at all six facilities. 

Heiner Siegmund

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