Both Airbus and Boeing have special outsize-cargo freighters for transporting large pieces of airliner; Airbus has five Belugas (derived from the A300), while Boeing uses four Dreamlifters (extensively-rebuilt 747s). The Beluga fleet is primarily used for moving pieces of Airbus aircraft around, but Airbus also charters them out for moving various other very large things from place to place, making a tidy profit on the side. Not so with the Dreamlifters, which are used exclusively in the airliner-transport role.

Why is it that Airbus charters out spare Beluga capacity, but Boeing keeps their Dreamlifters all to themselves?


2 Answers 2


The 747LCF cannot haul any cargo except Boeing’s own cargo as its type certificate only allows it to carry Boeing’s own cargo.

Whereas A300 Beluga’s type certificate limitation section only refers to Airplane Flight Manual. It may allows to carry other cargo with some conditions met.


Page 28 of A20WE, type certificate of 747, states

XIV - 747-400 Large Cargo Freighter (LCF) Major Design Change (Approved June, 2, 2007 ) Transport Category

Allowable cargo

These airplanes are not approved for commercial freight hauling operations of material other than that approved per Exemptions 8769, 8769A and 8769B. Only cargo that supports Boeing corporate lines of business is allowed for carriage. All items intended for carriage must conform to the standards found in Document D926U013-44, “747-400 LCF Flammability Acceptance Criteria for Cargo Carriage,” or be accepted by the FAA once a safe method of transport has been established. A summary of all items allowed for carriage is identified in Document D451U742-01, “Allowable Cargo – 747-400 Large Cargo Freighter.” Document D451U742-01 is considered part of the Weight and Balance Manual/Airplane Flight Manual. In addition, a listing of the FAA-approved shipping mechanical equipment (SME) fixtures that are approved for installation on the 747-400 LCF aircraft are contained in the Weight and Balance Control and Loading Manual (Document D043U545-BHC1).

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    $\begingroup$ But this is really not a complete answer, it's just "because the FAA says so". Is there a good reason why they said so? $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Mar 9, 2019 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ No idea as of now but I think it makes it easier for Boeing to certify the plane to carry its own cargo. FAA even restricted what can be carried as a cargo so Boeing cannot just one day say a power plant generator is to “supports Boeing corporate lines of business”. $\endgroup$
    – vasin1987
    Mar 9, 2019 at 17:33
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    $\begingroup$ Certification costs a lot of money, and the Dreamliner already put a huge dent in Boeing, so the answer is really good IMO, +1. $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Mar 9, 2019 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Sean, it depends on how much extra revenue they think they could get compared to how much the additional work to get general certification would cost. Also the changes could make it less efficient for the primary purpose and then it would make even less sense. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Mar 9, 2019 at 22:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Sean: Spend money to make money doesn't always work, you already said those are oddball missions, a niche market will limited demand. $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Mar 9, 2019 at 22:08

TL;DR: Between the development of the Beluga and the Dreamlifter, the An-124 took over the commercial large cargo market. Therefore, Boeing didn't have a business case for charters.

As mentioned in vasin1987's answer, the A300-600ST Beluga is certified for commercial operations whereas the 747LCF is not. Airbus originally intended the aircraft to be available for charter, so they went through all the certification work, whereas Boeing did not.

The reason why has to do with the time periods in which both were built. The Beluga project began in the early 1990's. Consider the very large haul capability at the time: the US military-only C-5, the aging Guppy, and the An-124.

The An-124 would be well suited, except at that time, it had no civil certification and Ukraine and Russia were still getting over from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Prior to that, it would be politically difficult in many places to do business with Aeroflot, the Soviet Union's air carrier.

By the 2000's, Antonov and Russian operators realized there was a heavy lift market, and their aircraft was very well suited for it. Airbus was successful, and with increasing production rates so the Belugas were needed for internal use. The An-124 took over the charter market.

It was under this context that the 747LCF project started. Both the Beluga and the Dreamlifter have high cargo floors that require special equipment or crane for loading, a severe disadvantage against the An-124. So Boeing didn't have a business case to pursue charters.

Things have changed once again, with the political situation between Ukraine and Russia, the An-124 may not have support, so keep an eye out for what will happen.


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