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Postage Stamp 1:400 Airbus A300-600ST Beluga

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Postage Stamp 1:400 Airbus A300-600ST Beluga

Postage Stamp 1:400 Airbus A300-600ST Beluga

This model can be displayed on the stand or with landing gear down on the ground

The Airbus A300-600ST (Super Transporter), or Beluga, is a version of the standard A300-600 wide-body airliner modified to carry aircraft parts and outsize cargo. It received the official name of Super Transporter early on; however, the name Beluga, a whale it resembles, gained popularity and has since been officially adopted. The Beluga XL, based on the Airbus A330 with similar modifications and dimensions, was developed by Airbus to replace the type in January 2020.

Several major aircraft manufacturers are multinational, and it is not unusual for them to have plants in widely separated locations. Airbus is unique in that although it is today a standalone multinational corporation, it was originally a consortium formed by the major British, French, German, and Spanish aerospace companies. The geographic location of Airbus manufacturing is not only influenced by cost and convenience; it is also a matter of aviation history and national interest. Historically, each of the Airbus partners makes an entire aircraft section, which would then be transported to a central location for final assembly; even after the integration of Airbus into a single firm, the arrangement remained largely the same, with Airbus partners becoming subsidiaries or contractors of the multinational pan-European company. The details vary from one model to another, but the general arrangement is for the wings and landing gear to be made in the UK, the tail and doors in Spain, the fuselage in Germany, and the nose and centre-section in France, with final assembly in either Toulouse, France; Hamburg, Germany; or Seville, Spain.

When Airbus started in 1970, road vehicles were initially used for the movement of components and sections; however, growth in production volume soon necessitated a switch to air transport. From 1972 onwards, a fleet of four highly modified "Super Guppies" took over. These were former Boeing Stratocruisers from the 1940s that had been converted with custom fuselages and the adoption of turbine engines to carry large volume loads for NASA's space program in the 1960s. Airbus' use of the Super Guppies led to the jest that "every Airbus is delivered on the wings of a Boeing". As time went on, the Super Guppies grew increasingly unsatisfactory for Airbus's ferrying needs: their age meant that operating expenses were high and ever-increasing, and growing Airbus production required greater capacity than could be provided by the existing fleet.

Various options were studied to serve as a replacement transport medium for the Super Guppies, including methods of surface transportation by road, rail, and sea; these alternatives were discarded in favor of a principally air-based solution as they were considered to have reliability concerns and were time-consuming in operation; in addition, the assembly line in Toulouse was not conveniently accessible by any of the surface methods.[6] A key requirement of the new air transporter was the need to accommodate every major component being manufactured by Airbus, including the then-heaviest planned part, that being the wing of the larger variants of the Airbus A340. A speedy development program was also necessitated in order to begin introducing the prospective type in time to take over duties from the Super Guppy fleet, which was scheduled to draw down in the mid-1990s.

Several different types of aircraft were examined for potential use, including the Antonov An-124, Antonov An-225, Ilyushin Il-86, Boeing 747, Boeing 767, Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, and McDonnell Douglas C-17 Globemaster III; the use of any existing aircraft was eventually discounted due to a lack of internal space to accommodate the desired components, the use of a piggyback arrangement was also dismissed as impractical.[6] Boeing made their own offer to convert several Boeing 767s for the requirement, but this was viewed as inferior to developing a purpose-built aircraft using Airbus' existing wide-body twin-engined Airbus A300-600R instead.

In August 1991, Aérospatiale and DASA, two of the major Airbus partners, formed a 50/50 joint venture company, Super Airbus Transport International (SATIC), based in Toulouse, France, to develop a new-build replacement for the Super Guppy fleet. The selected starting point for the design was the Airbus A300, leading to the new airframe being designated as the A300-600ST Super Transporter. Following a pre-design period by SATIC, detailed design work was performed by Aérospatiale and DASA while subcontractors were selected to complete the 15 separate work packages; amongst these subcontractors, CASA was selected to produce the upper fuselage, Dornier provided the hydraulic systems, and Sogerma performed the final assembly work. The A300-600ST was not a like-for-like replacement, being larger, faster, and more efficient than the preceding Super Guppies. Airbus Industries elected to invest $1 billion into the program, this sum included the aircraft themselves, the cargo loading system, and program management.

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