A Systematic Guide for Bulk Cargo and ULD Handling for Flight Operations
03 August 2023| By Just Aviation Team
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Efficiently loading bulk cargo and Unit Load Devices (ULDs) onto an aircraft is a crucial process for business aviation operators. To ensure compliance with regulations and operational limitations, as well as adhere to specific loading procedures, it is imperative to employ technical precision. This article explores the intricacies of the loading process, highlights safety considerations, and emphasizes the significance of ULD certification.
The loading process of a flight must meticulously align with regulatory mandates, encompassing not only the operator’s loading procedures but also the instructions provided by the individual overseeing the overall loading process. The loading instructions should incorporate the distribution of baggage reconciliation systems and cargo, as specified in the aircraft loading and trim sheet.
Safety and Security Considerations for Bulk Cargo and ULD Handling
In response to safety and security considerations, stringent baggage reconciliation procedures have been developed to ensure that only accompanied baggage is loaded onto the aircraft. Exceptions are made when an additional validation process has been implemented for each unaccompanied bag. These measures are crucial for maintaining a high level of safety during operations.
Implications of Load Distribution
When loading large underfloor holds, precise load distribution is paramount. The Loading Instruction Form (LIF) specifies the load distribution by hold or compartment, taking into account the considerable impact on the Center of Gravity (CG) of the aircraft. Deviations in load distribution can lead to control difficulties and, in extreme cases, loss of control. They can also impede the opening of the baggage door post-flight. For larger cargo holds, cargo netting can be employed to create sections, ensuring load stability during flight.
Bulk Cargo Aircraft Loading
Bulk cargo aircraft predominantly handle loose individual items of luggage and cargo, commonly observed in narrow-body short-haul aircraft. The loading of such items is typically based on item count, with the load and trim sheet completed using predetermined assumptions about the average weight per bag. However, exact figures may vary based on regulations set by the National Aviation Authority (NAA) or tailored to meet the specific baggage rules of the aircraft operator.
To prevent movement during flight, bulk baggage items are divided by net. Any shift in the load during flight alters the aircraft’s center of gravity, potentially leading to control difficulties and hindering the opening of the baggage door after landing. Additionally, larger cargo holds can be partitioned using cargo netting to ensure stability.
Unit Load Devices (ULDs)
Unit Load Devices (ULDs) provide a streamlined solution for loading baggage and cargo items onto wide-body aircraft, and increasingly, some narrow-body aircraft as well. These ULDs, often constructed from lightweight aluminum, allow for the consolidation of baggage or cargo before being loaded into the aircraft hold.
Specialized hydraulic lift equipment is employed to maneuver ULDs onto the aircraft using a roller floor. Once in position, they are securely fastened. To determine the weight of ULDs accurately, it is necessary either to weigh them or apply standard baggage unit weights based on the number of baggage items per container.
Certification of ULDs
Airworthiness authorities, typically located in the manufacturer’s country, require certification of containers, pallets, and nets to ensure their suitability for use. Notably, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Technical Standards Order (TSO) C90c and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) ETSO C90c are prevailing certification standards.
To obtain certification, ULDs must demonstrate their ability to withstand the anticipated loads while being appropriately restrained. Calculations and test results are crucial components of the approval process, validating the design’s capacity to contain the contents under extreme flight conditions. Rigorous testing is essential to ensure the ULD’s compliance with these standards.
Procedures, Regulations, and Documentation for Bulk Cargo and ULD Handling
The handling of bulk cargo and Unit Load Devices (ULDs) in the aviation industry necessitates adherence to meticulous procedures, regulations, and best practices for bulk cargo and ULD handling:
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are the cornerstone for managing bulk goods and ULDs in an effective manner. Aviation operators must develop detailed SOPs that encompass the following key aspects:
- Cargo Acceptance: Procedures for the acceptance of bulk cargo and ULDs, including verification of documentation, weight, and dimension checks, and compliance with hazardous materials regulations.
- Handling Equipment: Guidelines for the safe and efficient use of handling equipment, including specialized hydraulic lift equipment, roller floors, cargo netting, and securing mechanisms.
- Load Distribution: Protocols for precise load distribution, as outlined in the Loading Instruction Form (LIF) or the Load and Trim Sheet, to maintain the aircraft’s Center of Gravity (CG) within approved limits.
- Baggage Reconciliation: Rigorous procedures to ensure accurate reconciliation of baggage, distinguishing between accompanied and unaccompanied items, as mandated by security considerations.
Accurate and comprehensive documentation is paramount to the smooth handling of bulk cargo and ULDs. Aviation operators must adhere to the following documentation requirements:
- Loading Instruction Form (LIF): A detailed document specifying load distribution instructions for each hold or compartment, taking into account the impact on the aircraft’s CG.
- Baggage Reconciliation System: Documentation outlining the procedures for reconciling baggage, ensuring only accompanied baggage is loaded, unless additional validation measures have been implemented for unaccompanied items.
- Load and Trim Sheet: A comprehensive record detailing the weight and balance calculations for bulk cargo and ULDs, based on prescribed assumptions or specific NAA regulations.
- ULD Certificates: Official documentation certifying the airworthiness of containers, pallets, and nets, following approval by airworthiness authorities such as the FAA (TSO C90c) or EASA (ETSO C90c).
Compliance and Auditing
To ensure regulatory compliance and uphold the highest standards of safety, aviation operators should establish robust compliance and auditing mechanisms. This involves periodic internal audits, thorough inspections of ULDs, and adherence to quality management systems such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001:2015.
At Just Aviation, our passion for aviation fuels our unwavering commitment to excellence. With our specialized expertise in air cargo operations, ULD handling, and bulk cargo, we have firmly established ourselves as leaders in the industry. Our dedicated team of aviation professionals possesses extensive knowledge and experience, enabling us to provide unparalleled services to our valued clients.