Heavylift / Breakbulk
Ugly logistics ducklings
There have already been a quite a few rum birds in the logistics sky, haven’t there? Airbus’s huge new freighter, which cannot fly yet, is the latest in a line of rather special units. A much older type recently came home from New Zealand.
It cannot fly yet, it is true; it cannot even taxi on the runway under it own steam; but at least the new BelugaXL was able to leave its assembly hall in the southern French city of Toulouse for the first time at the beginning of January. Production of the rather special transporter, which is based on the Airbus A330-200, began two years ago. This initial BelugaXL is expected to be flying by mid-2018. Programme head Bertrand George said that “naturally enough, the team is really looking forward to the maiden flight.” This is rather understandable – the programme is currently 18 months behind schedule.
The corporation believes it can regain the lost months in stages, however. As the first giant whale was being rolled out the assembly of the second one had already begun. The BelugaXL is expected to be operational from 2019 onwards, and between 2020 and 2025 it and its four siblings will successively replace the five rather aged predecessor Belugas. The XL’s cargo hold is 1 m wider and 6 m longer, which will put it in a position to carry two A350 wings simultaneously between Airbus factories spread out all over Europe. No other task has yet been pencilled in for the huge freighter, however.
The return of a legend
Aerospace Bristol, an aviation museum located in Filton, north of Bristol (England), did not have funds required to fly home a legend that can no longer fly itself. The museum is continuing to accept donations with which to present one of the last remaining Bristol Type 170 freighters still in existence. It arrived in Filton’s historic Brabazon Hangar on 4 January, having completed a long sea and overland voyage.
The Bristol Aeroplane Company built 214 of the units between 1945 and 1958. Today these front-loading freighters, of which there are only eleven still in existence, look as idiosyncratic as the Airbus BelugaXL does. Aerospace Bristol’s is the only one in Europe; it previously stood on the Ardmore airfield (AMZ) near Auckland (New Zealand) for many years.
In October 2017 the aircraft was first hauled to its port of embarkation on lorries by Ricks Trucking. There Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics took over and loaded it onto the ro-ro freighter Talisman, which took it to Singapore, where the aircraft was transferred to the Tiger for the longest leg, the sea voyage to Bristol.
The last 15 road kilometres, from Bristol’s Royal Portbury docks, was managed by Kings Heavy Haulage. It deployed a tandem crane to unload and transfer the unit to a waiting 17 m four-axled trailer, which safely delivered the last remaining Bristol Type 170 freighter to the its final home in the museum.