Shielded Airbus stations to hike Beluga capacity

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Airbus is preparing to open the second of six new loading docks for its A300-600ST transports, designed to increase the productivity of the type as it ramps up its assembly lines.

The airframer has five A300-600ST Beluga aircraft but the higher demands driven by A350 and A320neo production mean Airbus is having to squeeze additional capacity out of the logistics fleet.

It is developing six new dedicated stations for the type which will enable them to operate in adverse weather conditions which might otherwise restrict loading procedures.

The first opened in May at its Hamburg Finkenwerder plant and a second will be brought on-line at Bremen this month.

Airbus Hamburg line station manager Friedhelm Preuss says that, particularly in winter, wind speeds exceeding 30kt could prevent raising of the Beluga’s large freight door through which aircraft assemblies are loaded.

“There were days when the aircraft could not operate,” he says.

With the new loading dock, which will be the same for all six stations, the Beluga can be parked nose-in with the entire forward fuselage shielded from the weather by sliding doors tailored to match the aircraft’s shape.

Airbus is to open new Beluga loading facilities at Saint-Nazaire, Broughton and Getafe and construct a second at Hamburg.

It is aiming to increase the operating capability of the Beluga fleet to 10,000h per year by 2017 and allow the type to fly five flights daily for six days of the week.

Airbus has also been studying a replacement for the Beluga, probably to be based on the A330 although it has yet to finalise a decision.