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Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Beluga whale lands in Chennai

Whales are considered to the biggest of animals .. ..  Whales are social, air breathing mammals, they feed their babies with their own milk, and they take extraordinarily good care of their young and teach them life skills.  The Antarctic blue whale is the biggest of all blue whales. It is also the largest animal on the planet, weighing up to 200 tons (approximately 33 elephants) and reaching up to 30 metres in length. They can consume about 3,600kg of krill a day! 

BUT not all whales are big – neither is this a post on mammoth aquatic mammal. The beluga, or white whale, is one of the smallest species of whale. Their distinctive color and prominent foreheads make them easily identifiable. Unlike most other whales, the beluga has a very flexible neck that enables it to nod and turn its head in all directions. Belugas generally live together in small groups known as pods. They are social animals and vocal communicators using a diversified language of clicks, whistles, and clangs. Belugas can also copy a variety of other sounds. These whales are common in the Arctic Ocean's coastal waters, though they are found in subarctic waters as well. Arctic belugas migrate southward in large herds when the sea freezes over. 

The beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) is one of two members of the family Monodontidae, along with the narwhal, and the only member of the genus Delphinapterus. It is also known as the white whale, as it is the only cetacean to regularly occur with this colour; the sea canary, due to its high-pitched calls; and the melonhead, though that more commonly refers to the melon-headed whale, which is an oceanic dolphin. It possesses a distinctive protuberance at the front of its head which houses an echolocation organ called the melon, which in this species is large and deformable. The beluga's body size is between that of a dolphin and a true whale.  Belugas are gregarious and form groups of 10 animals on average, although during the summer, they can gather in the hundreds or even thousands in estuaries and shallow coastal areas. They are slow swimmers, but can dive to 700 m (2,300 ft) below the surface.  The native peoples of North America and Russia have hunted belugas for many centuries. Belugas are one of the most commonly kept cetaceans in captivity and are housed in aquariums, dolphinariums and wildlife parks in North America, Europe and Asia.  


Beluga flies on air too !  The Airbus A300-600ST (Super Transporter), or Beluga, is a version of the standard A300-600 wide-body airliner modified to carry aircraft parts and outsize cargo. It received the official name of Super Transporter early on; however, the name Beluga, a whale it resembles,[1][2] gained popularity and has since been officially adopted. Its replacement, the BelugaXL, entered service in January 2020.  Back in 1992, construction work began on the first aircraft, the maiden flight of which took place in September 1994. Following a total of 335 flight hours being performed during the test program, restricted certification of the type was awarded by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in October 1995, enabling the A300-600ST "Beluga" to enter service shortly thereafter. In addition to the first aircraft, four more Belugas were constructed at a rate of roughly one per year; from start to finish, each airframe reportedly took roughly three years to complete.  


The fleet's primary task is to carry Airbus components ready for final assembly across Europe between Toulouse, Hamburg and nine other sites, and they do so 60 times per week. The Beluga fleet is owned by Airbus Transport International (ATI), a wholly owned subsidiary of Airbus Group that was established specifically to operate the type; through this organisation, the fleet is made available for hire by third parties for charter flight.  The A300-600ST's freight compartment is 7.4 m (24 ft) in diameter and 37.7 m (124 ft) long; maximum payload is 47 tonnes. 

A beluga aircraft sighting was done recently at Chennai  - yes, a giant Airbus Beluga cargo plane (A300-608ST) made a stopover at Chennai airport on Monday for refuelling and crew rest. This is the first time the aircraft has touched down at the airport. “The elegant whale is here and with such awesomeness! The mighty #Beluga No.2 (A300-608ST) landed at Chennai airport for the first time, today. The cargo transporter is a rare visitor in this part of the world and a marvel to behold,” the Airports Authority of India (AAI) tweeted.


The aircraft came to Ahmedabad from Abu Dhabi and landed in the city on its way to Thailand. “It did not bring cargo. The stopover is for crew rest or fuelling,” said an AAI official. Known as super transporter, the aircraft is a version of the wide body A300-600 of Airbus designed to carry aircraft parts like wings or large machine parts, helicopters and other consignments which will not fit into regular freighters.  It is 56.15m long and has a wingspan of 44.84m. It has a takeoff weight of 1,55,000kg. Though its length and wingspan is smaller than the popular B747 freighter which is 70.6m and has a wing span of 64.4m, Beluga planes are designed in the shape of a whale to carry oversized cargo.  

Airbus has made only five such planes. The one that has come to Chennai is second in the series. The plane was in Kolkata in May. The plane, parked at the remote bay, caused a buzz among airport staff and passengers. Metro rail commuters on airport line were seen looking at the unconventionally shaped aircraft, many tried to shoot videos from the moving train. Chennai airport receives giant cargo planes like B747-400, A330-200, Antonov AN-124 with wider wingspan than the Beluga. Though the airport has equipped its parking bays and taxiways for A380 aircraft, the largest plane cannot land during busy hours without affecting the schedules of other flights.   

Interesting !  

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
13th July 2022. 

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