A fleet of Airbus A300 freighter aircraft has started to fly horses to Athens, Greece, to participate in the various equestrian competitions during the Olympic and Paralympic Games this year. A300B4 freighters, operated by MNG Airlines, will transport the horses from the airports in Luton, UK, and Münster-Osnabrück, Germany, to their final destination. MNG is Turkey’s biggest cargo airline and one of the largest A300 freighter operators in Europe. As from 19th August 2004, the horses will also return on these A300s from Athens to Luton and Münster-Osnabrück on their way back home.

MNG Airlines, operating a fleet of seven A300B freighter aircraft, were commissioned by Peden Bloodstock for this operation. The operation involved moving some 260 Olympic and Paralympic Equine Athlets, their attendants and equipment to and from Greece. MNG Airlines operates converted A300B2 and A300B4 aircraft, which can accomodate a payload of up to 44 tonnes over distances of around 2,000 nm / 3,700 km.

The Airbus A300 freighter aircraft are particularly suited for flying the horses from Luton and Münster-Osnabrück to Athens because of their optimised regional payload-range capability. An evaluation by Peden Bloodstock showed that A300 freighters were the only widebody cargo aircraft suitable for flying the missions with a full payload. Other aircraft are restricted either in terms of payload, cargo volume or take-off performance.

Airbus offers a range of regional freighters as transport solutions for example on European routes. They include the A300F4-600R, available as a new aircraft, as well as A300Bs, A310s and A300-600R passenger aircraft, that undergo conversion once they are available on the second-hand market. For their new role as freighters, these aircraft get equipped with the standard Airbus main deck cargo door, a reinforced floor and a main deck cargo loading system. An A300B4 configured as a freighter has a 43 metric tonne cargo capacity at a range of over 2,000 nautical miles (3,700km), while the shorter-fuselage A310 carries 39 metric tonnes of freight over distances of up to 3,200 nautical miles (5,950km).

Airbus’ shareholder company, EADS, currently offers Airbus cargo conversions through its subsidiary EFW in Dresden, Germany, with a capacity of 14 aircraft per year. As of the end of June more than 100 converted A300 and A310 freighter aircraft are in airline service all over the world.

Airbus is an EADS company with BAE Systems.