The A300-600ST's max payload of 47 tonnes (103,615lb) is unlikely to be fully utilised, as the emphasis of the design is on volume rather than payload. The internal main cabin volume is 1400m3 (49,442cu ft), and can carry a range of oversize components, such as a fully equipped A330 or A340 wing shipset, or two A320/321 wing shipsets, or two A310 fuselage sections (front & rear).
Airbus has taken delivery of its four A300-600STs originally on order and has converted an option on a fifth to a firm order.
Oversize cargo freighter
The A300-600ST Super Transporter was designed to replace Airbus Industrie's Super Guppy transports, used by the consortium to ferry oversize components such as wings and fuselage sections between Airbus' partners' plants throughout western Europe.
Development of the A300-600ST, nicknamed Beluga and also Super Flipper, began in August 1991. The A300-600ST's tight development program - for what in many ways is effectively a new aircraft - saw the transport rolled out in June 1994, with first flight on September 13 that year. The A300-600ST then entered a 400 hour flight test program which culminated in mid 1995, with certification awarded that September and with delivery and entry into service with Airbus in January 1996. All of the first four on order had been delivered by mid 1998 (allowing the Super Guppy's retirement in October 1997). The fifth Super Transporter is scheduled to be delivered in 2001.
The A300-600ST is based on the A300-600 airliner, with which it shares the wing, lower fuselage, main undercarriage and cockpit. The main differences are obvious - a bulged main deck, new forward lower fuselage, new enlarged tail with winglets and an upwards hinging main cargo door. A design study of a similarly configured A340, the A340ST Mega Transporter, to carry A3XX components is underway.
Program management of the A300-600ST is the responsibility of the Special Aircraft Transport Company, or SATIC, an economic interest grouping formed on a 50/50 basis by Aerospatiale and DASA operating on behalf of Airbus Industrie. While much of the work on the aircraft is performed by the Airbus partners, other European companies are also involved in the program.