Just under two years ago Airbus launched its outsized air-cargo service, Airbus Beluga Transport, operated by Airbus Transport International (ATI) and has now received its own Air Operator Certificate.

“For our final dossier we had been compiling many documents during the first half of 2023, encompassing Flight Safety, Flight Operations, Ground Operations, Technical Operations and Crew Training,” recalls Benoît Lemonnier, Managing Director of AiBT.

“We submitted it at the end of June following which we answered questions and fine-tuned it over the summer. Of course, we didn't start from scratch, as we built on the documentation and processes of ATI.”

Once the decisive audit by the authorities was passed successfully in September, there remained one important ‘box to tick’ – the “Continuous Airworthiness and Maintenance Organization” certificate (CAMO), which came at the beginning of November. With all these approvals successfully achieved, AiBT could at last really call itself an ‘airline’ and operate under its own AOC.

Currently AiBT’s fleet includes three aircraft, with the fourth one due for induction in 2024 and initially AiBT will start with flights on the existing Airbus network. Flights commenced in November for routes to Saint Nazaire, Hamburg, Bremen and Sevilla, to allow AiBT to test its internal procedures and to train everyone, especially the new pilots, before it resumes its core business of long-haul missions.

“So far we’ve delivered payloads mainly for Airbus Helicopters and Airbus Defence and Space and we're going to expand our customer base in 2024,” said Benoit.

Based on the A300-600 design, the BelugaST was used by Airbus to transport its own aircraft sections and equipment between manufacturing facilities. These are being replaced by BelugaXLs based on the larger A330-200 platform.