Airbus Beluga vs Boeing Dreamlifter

Airbus Beluga

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The Airbus A300-600ST (Super Transporter), or Beluga, is a modified version of the standard A300-600 widebody airliner to carry aircraft parts and outsize cargo. It received the name ”Super Transporter” early on, however, Beluga – a whale it resembles gained popularity, and has been adopted ever since.

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The Airbus A300-600ST shares many design similarities, although substantially varying in appearance to the A300-600 upon which it was based. The wings, engines, landing gear, and the lower part of the fuselage remain identical to that used in a conventional A300 while the upper part of the fuselage forms an enormous horseshoe-shaped structure 25ft in diameter.

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CAPACITY47,000 KG (103,617 lbs)
LENGTH56.15 m (184 ft 3 in)
WINGSPAN44.84 m (147 ft 1 in)
HEIGHT17.24 m (56 ft 7 in)
WING AREA260 m2 (2,800 sq ft)
EMPTY WEIGHT86,500 kg (190,700 lb)
MAX.TAKE-OFF WEIGHT155,000 kg (341,717 lb)
FUEL CAPACITY23,860 l (6,303 US gal)
FUSELAGE EXTERNAL DIAMETER7.31 m (24 ft) (including lower fuselage)
CARGO CROSS-SECTION DIAMETER7.1 m (23 ft 4 in) in cargo compartment
CARGOHOLDvolume 1,500 m3 (53,000 cu ft), 37.7 m (124 ft) long × 7.04 m (23.1 ft) wide × 7.08 m (23.2 ft) tall
POWERPLANT 2 × General Electric CF6-80C2A8 turbofan, 257 kN (58,000 lbf) thrust each
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Boeing Dreamlifter

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The Boeing 747 Dreamlifter, also known as the Boeing 747-400 Large Cargo Freighter (LCF), is a wide-body aircraft modified extensively from the B747-400, originally designed to transport massive B787 parts from facilities around the world to their assembly unit in the US. With a volume of 65,000 cubic feet, the Dreamlifter can hold thrice as much as that of a B747-400F.

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The LCF conversion was partially done by Boeing’s Moscow bureau and Boeing Rocketdyne with the swing tail designed in partnership with GAMESA AERONAUTICA of Spain. The cargo portion of the aircraft is unpressurized.

Specifications :

LENGTH235 ft 2 in (71.68 m)
WINGSPAN211 ft 5 in (64.4 m)
HEIGHT70 ft 8 in (21.54 m)
FUSELAGE WIDTH27 ft 6 in (8.38 m)
OPERATING EMPTY WEIGHT180,530 kg (398,000 lb)
MAX.TAKE-OFF WEIGHT (MTOW)364,235 kg (803,001 lb)
CRUISING SPEEDMach 0.82 (474 kn, 878 km/h)
RANGE( FULLY LOADED)4,200 nmi (4,800 mi; 7,800 km)
MAX.FUEL CAPACITY52,609 U.S. gal (199,150 l)
ENGINE THRUST ( PER ENGINE)63,300 lbf (282 kN)
TAKE-OFF RUN AT MTOW9,199 ft (2,804 m)
Photo Credits: Flickr @Individuo

Airbus Beluga XL

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The Airbus Beluga XL is based on the Airbus A330-200F built by Airbus to replace the original Airbus Beluga ST in the movement of oversized aircraft components. With 30% more capacity than the original Beluga ST, the Beluga XL can carry two A350 XWB wings instead of one. Its new fuselage is 6.9 m (23 ft) longer and 1.7 m (5 ft 7 in) wider than the original BelugaST, and it can lift a payload 6 t (5.9 long tons; 6.6 short tons) heavier. Its aft section is based on the A330-300, while its forward is based on the A330-200 for the center of gravity reasons, and the reinforced floor and structure are derived from the A330-200F. The A330 wings, main landing gear, and central and aft fuselage form a semi-built platform with few systems, without the aft upper fuselage, while the upper central fuselage is cut off, facilitated by the metal construction. The enlarged freight hold is mounted in three months with 8,000 new parts on the junction line.

Which one is best?

The Airbus Beluga is beaten by the Boeing Dreamlifter, which in turn is beaten by the Beluga XL.

What we have here is an argument not based on aircraft design but on time. The Beluga was introduced in 1995, the Dreamlifter in 2007, and the latest Beluga XL in 2016. Is it fair to compare aircraft that are each 10 years apart from each other? We can expect Boeing to come out with their new version in the next five to ten years which is likely to leave the Airbus variants in the dust.


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