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Airbus Beluga Transport Achieves Milestone as Independent Airline

Airbus Beluga Transport (AiBT) has secured its Air Operator Certificate (AOC), marking a pivotal moment in the evolution of its air-cargo service. Two years after its launch in January 2022, AiBT, operated by Airbus Transport International (ATI), now stands as an independent freight airline with its AOC.

Benoît Lemonnier, the managing director of AiBT, recounts the meticulous process leading to this achievement. The comprehensive dossier compiled during the first half of 2023 covered aspects such as Flight Safety, Flight Operations, Ground Operations, Technical Operations, and Crew Training. Following a successful audit in September, the final step involved obtaining the “Continuous Airworthiness and Maintenance Organisation” certificate in November.

Becoming an airline involved more than regulatory compliance; it required strategic resource allocation. Lemonnier emphasizes the importance of placing the right personnel in key roles. The company, which has seen an influx of nearly 60 employees, focused on recruiting experts in flight operations, crew planning, and pilot positions. The commitment to training ensures readiness from day one.

AiBT’s operational base at Francazal airport near Toulouse, equipped with two dedicated parking spots, enhances its capabilities in loading, unloading, and aircraft maintenance. The successful transfer of the BelugaSTs from ATI’s fleet to AiBT’s own register, coupled with the addition of a fourth aircraft in 2024, solidifies the company’s operational foundation.


Olivier Schneider, the head of flight operations, brings over two decades of experience to AiBT. Acknowledging the challenges of ramping up operations, Schneider highlights the need for ongoing crew and ground support team training. The operation control center, akin to the ‘control tower’ of the airline, faces the task of qualifying two new dispatchers every two months.

As AiBT initiates flights on the existing Airbus network, the focus is on gaining operational experience before venturing into long-haul missions. The gradual approach allows the company to refine internal procedures and train its teams effectively.

Looking ahead, AiBT plans to diversify its payload types, expand its customer base, and enter into long-haul missions by 2024. Collaborating with Airbus, the company aims to certify the BelugaST for carrying various payloads, including helicopters, containers, and aircraft engines, opening new market opportunities.

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