Unit load devices (ULDs) are a critical area of cargo operations. Their correct handling is vital not only to flight safety but also to the airline bottom line.

A discussion at the World Cargo Symposium noted that ULDs are the number one cause of aircraft ground damage, and their repair costs the industry more than $300 million annually.

But the fact is that 80% of ULD repair costs could be avoided if handled correctly.

ULDs structurally interact with the aircraft when loaded and therefore must meet a number of certification requirements. Base sizes are clearly defined, for example, and tolerances for those sizes are also standardized. ULDs must also be tested for critical worse case situations, including center of gravity, and net configurations must be accurate and attached to the appropriate points. Damage limits must also be observed, meaning unserviceable ULDs must be removed from operations. Even a missing rivet can make a difference.

There are numerous examples of ULD issues every day despite an abundance of guidance material available, including the IATA Cargo Handling Manual.

The panel discussion also noted that training is critical with the content clearly defined and meeting established criteria. It is essential that staff understand whether or not a ULD is airworthy. Support equipment and the correct infrastructure for ULD storage and handling are also vital to proper ULD safety.

Software can help and reduce the complexity of checklists and enable better understanding between partners. Celebi Cargo is trialing a product in this area that aims to provide better transparency and improve ULD handling and flight safety.


The Panel

Moderator: Zhi Yong Liao, IATA

Thomas Morawe, PalNet

Edwin Boon, KLM Cargo

Christopher Licht, Celebi Cargo

Gert Pfeifer, Jettainer


Credit | KAMONRAT / Shutterstock