Beluga Airbus
Airbus's Beluga has been used to transport space station elements and helicopters. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Bahrain International Airport has received for the first time the biggest aircraft in the history of aviation, “Beluga” from Airbus, known as the sky whale, local media reported.

Al Ayam newspaper reported today that the plane is equivalent to the length of two blue whales, and the maximum net payload of the plane is 51 tons.

Airbus developed the Beluga as a successor to the Super Guppy, initially for Airbus’ own manufacturing needs.

Currently, Airbus uses four or five Beluga aircraft for transporting large assembled sections of the fuselage and wings of aircraft. The fifth Beluga serves as a backup for Airbus and is also offered to fulfil transport services in the market outside Airbus.

The Beluga is capable of carrying loads of just over 1,500m³ or up to 47t (103,616lb) over a distance of 900 nautical miles. Lighter loads are transported over longer distances, for example, 40t to 1,500 nautical miles and 26t to a range of over 2,500 nautical miles.

The aircraft is fitted with GE CF6-80C2A8 engines that provide a cruise speed of 0.7 Mach. The maximum operating altitude is 35,000ft (10,670m).

The Beluga has been used to transport space station elements, helicopters, works of art, humanitarian aid and, in July 2003, a number of vintage aircraft to an airshow in Wisconsin, USA, where it remained on static display.

Transport missions carried out by the Beluga also include the delivery of the Eutelsat W3A satellite, built by EADS Astrium, to the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site in Kazakhstan in February 2004, and the airlift of the vertical tail plane for the first Airbus A380 from Hamburg, Germany, to the Airbus final assembly hall in Toulouse, France.