Supporting the Airbus production system
With its industrial presence that spans the globe, the operation of an effective transport logistics network is a vital element for the continued success of Airbus as a world-leading aircraft producer.
The company’s manufacture, production and sub-assembly of parts are distributed across 15 sites in Europe, with jetliner final assembly lines in Toulouse, France; Hamburg, Germany; Tianjin, China; and Mobile, Alabama. This internal industrial system has been expanded to include a regional design office in North America, a joint venture engineering centre in Russia and further engineering centres in China and India.
EXPANDING OUTSIZED CARGO TRANSPORT CAPABILITY
To support its internal supply chain, Airbus developed the A300-600ST Super Transporter – also known as the Beluga – to carry complete aircraft sections from various production sites across Europe to their appropriate final assembly lines in France, Germany, Spain and China.
As a highly modified version of the A300-600 jetliner, the Beluga has one of the widest fuselage cross-sections of any aircraft – civil or military – while its 1,400-sq. metre main deck’s cargo volume is greater than many of the world’s leading airlifters. A semi-automated main deck cargo loading system ensures easy and efficient handling of aircraft components, controlled by the trained crews of Airbus Transport International – which operates the five-aircraft Beluga fleet.
The Beluga’s jet speed and efficiency allows for short transport times to meet strict production schedules. It is operated by a three-member crew composed of two pilots and a loadmaster.
Based on the demand for its market-leading commercial jetliners Airbus is ramping up production rates – a move that will be supported by a new-generation oversized transport aircraft. In 2014, the company announced its new “Beluga XL,” which will be based on the versatile A330 aircraft. The first of five new Beluga XLs is planned to enter service in 2019, operating in parallel with the existing fleet as the A300-600ST jetliners are progressively retired through 2025.
Accommodating A380 production
Airbus utilises a supplemental logistics strategy for transporting A380 major sub-assemblies to the final assembly line in Toulouse – necessitated by the sheer size of these aircraft components. While the Beluga fleet is used to transfer the A380’s tailcone from Spain and its vertical stabiliser from Germany, a new concept was established for shipment of the jetliner’s very large fuselage sections, wings and horizontal stabiliser.
This complementary system employs marine and river transport to connect production facilities in Germany, Spain, the UK and France to the Garonne River south of Bordeaux, France. From here, the journey to Toulouse is completed by land – with convoys travelling at night on existing re-gauged roads. Moving at a maximum speed of 40 kph., six trucks and trailers can complete this journey over a three-night period.