Airbus outsources heavy checks on Beluga fleet

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Airbus has selected Sabena Technics to maintain its outsized A300-600ST transports, as part of a programme to ramp-up the availability of the Beluga fleet.

The airframer has embarked on the Fly 10,000 programme to ensure that the five Beluga aircraft are able to operate more intensively as production begins on the A350.

While Airbus has started work towards developing a potential replacement for the type - appearing to favour a conversion of the A330-200 - this will not be available until closer to 2020.

The Beluga fleet operates around 6,000h annually and the programme will raise this level to some 10,000h.

Sabena Technics will perform C-check base maintenance at its Bordeaux facility for a five-year period, during which the workload for the Beluga will be steadily increased - primarily through the assembly of A350s, delivery of which will start in 2014.

But the type will also continue to be used for A320neo transport as well as moving structures for the A380 and A400M.

Air Transport International, the operator of the Beluga fleet, will continue to conduct its own light maintenance.

Sabena Technics chief Rodolphe Marchais says the logistics specialist has been seeking a partner capable of offering "flexibility in slots allocation" as well as experience in A300 support. The company is to obtain European Part-145 base maintenance approval for the type.