The Process of Loading Bulk Cargo and ULD Onto The Aircraft

by Admin on October 31, 2022

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A flight’s loading process should comply with all regulations and limitations, the operator’s loading procedures, and the instructions provided by the person responsible for the overall loading process. In the aircraft loading and trim sheet, the distribution of baggage reconciliation system and cargo must be outlined as part of the loading instructions.


The Safety of Operations

As a result of security considerations in recent years, rigorous baggage reconciliation procedures have been developed, which ensure only accompanied baggage is loaded, unless an additional validation process has been applied to each unaccompanied bag.

When loading large underfloor holds, load distribution is specified by hold or compartment on the Loading Instruction Form (LIF), as there is a considerable impact on the Center of Gravity (CG) of the aircraft loading.


The Bulk Loading Aircraft Process

The bulk cargo aircraft loading of loose individual items of luggage and cargo is common on narrow body short haul aircraft. A loaded bag will be loaded by item count, and the load and trim sheet will be completed based on prescribed assumptions about the average weight per bag; exact figures may vary based on NAA regulations or meet the aircraft operator’s own baggage rules.

The holding of bulk baggage items is divided by net for the purpose of restricting movement during flight. The centre of gravity of the aircraft will shift if there is a shift in load during flight, which can cause control difficulties (in extreme cases, loss of control) and prevent the baggage door from opening following the flight. Larger cargo holds can also be divided into sections using cargo netting.


Unit Load Devices (ULD)

A much simpler aluminum container system called Unit Load Devices (ULDs) can be used by most wide-body aircraft, and increasingly by some narrow-body aircraft as well. Baggage or cargo items can be consolidated in these before being loaded into the aircraft hold by specialized hydraulic lift equipment. A roller floor is used to manoeuvre the ULDs to their final position on board, after which they are secured.

It is either necessary to weigh ULDs or to apply standard baggage unit weights based on the number of baggage items per container.


The Certification of ULD

Airworthiness authorities required to certify airworthiness of containers, pallets, and nets in the country where the manufacturer is located typically approve containers, pallets, and nets for use. Current certification standards include:

  • FAA – Technical Standards Order (TSO) C90c
  • EASA – ETSO C90c,

According to the TSO standards, the ULD must be able to withstand the loads required while being restrained as indicated in the calculations and test results to obtain approval or certification. It is necessary to load the ULD with extreme loads to demonstrate that the design can contain the contents under extreme flight conditions.


Gross Error Checks for Mass and Balance

Each aircraft departure will be accompanied by a load instruction or report form that instructs loading teams how much baggage or cargo needs to be loaded into each hold.

The operating crew may also complete the Load Instruction/Report Form in consultation with the loading supervisor when they produce a manual load and trim sheet.

It is generally the crew’s responsibility to cross-check the Load Instruction/Report Form against the load and trim sheet once the aircraft is loaded, but sometimes they receive a certificate stating that the baggage/cargo was loaded in accordance with the instructions on the load and trim sheet.

It is extremely difficult to provide definitive details on how to perform gross error checks due to the variety of mass and balance documentation formats and industry procedures.

The UK CAA’s guidance material CAP 1009: Gross Error Checks explains how to identify and correct any significant discrepancies in the loading process before departure in line with best industry practices.

Load Instruction/Report Form must be checked for accuracy in the same way as the load and trim sheet:

  • Identify the airline/operator
  • Registering and identifying the type of aircraft
  • Details of the flight (route, flight number, and date)
  • Each ULD/hold has a certain number of bags
  • A maximum weight allocation is not exceeded for each compartment
  • Cargo, baggage, ballast, spares, COMAT, and mail distribution (including baggage, cargo, ballast, spares, and mail)


In The Absence of STC GuideLoading Bulk Cargo in aircraft

It is imperative that air carriers establish procedures that address the following if their weight and balance manual or STC (Supplemental Type Certificate) does not provide comprehensive weight and balance guidance:

Cargo Clearance: Lighting fixtures, smoke detectors, etc., must be clear of cargo (distances between them).

Load Distribution: All compartments and pods should have cargo evenly distributed (spread) over their length, width, and height.

Airplane Nets: The proper installation and use of nets.

Airplane Smoke Barriers: Between passengers, flight crew members, and cargo, smoke barriers should be used properly.


Special Procedures

It may be necessary to prescribe special procedures for abnormal loads under either system, such as:

  • In accordance with Dangerous Goods Regulations
  • Items that are heavy
  • Excessive size
  • Dimensions/proportions that are unusual

When prescribed arrangements for load spreading are available and applied, heavy objects may be carried over the hold floor-loading limit published in the Airplane Flight Manuals (AFM).


iJET Aircraft Loading and Tracking Service

It has been the company’s pleasure to chart and load cargo aircraft in the most remote parts of the world. Every step of your air freight shipment is monitored and analyzed 24/7 by our logistics experts.

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