Cargo department in the aviation industry is not only the most fascinating part but also the most challenging one. In this article we will focus on what is cargo, what cargo planes are, what are cargo flights and how the handling of cargo takes place on the ground. Cargo or freight can be anything which is being transported from one place to another by the mode of road, rail, air or ocean for commercial use. Air freight can be transported by two way. Either it can be transported by loading it in a cargo aircraft or the bellies of commercial aircrafts could also be used to load the cargo along with baggage of passenger.
A cargo aircraft is a kind of aircraft which is used only for the purpose of transportation of cargo rather than the transportation of passenger. Cargo aircrafts are known as Freighter. Freighter are either manufactured in a way to handle huge amount of cargo or existing passenger flights are converted in a freighter by removing the seating of the aircraft. Aircraft designed for cargo flight usually have features that distinguish them from conventional passenger aircraft: a wide/tall fuselage cross-section, a high-wing to allow the cargo area to sit near the ground, numerous wheels to allow it to land at unprepared locations, and a high-mounted tail to allow cargo to be driven directly into and off the aircraft. E.g. Antonov AN- 225 Mriya, Airbus 330- MRTT, Douglas DC-3 etc.
A cargo airline is dedicated to the handling and transportation of cargo by air only. E.g. UPS airlines, Lufthansa cargo, FEDEX Airlines etc. Some cargo airlines are divisions or subsidiaries of larger passenger airlines. For example, SpiceJet the passenger airline has a dedicated airline for cargo handling named as SpiceExpress.
Handling cargo is not a cake walk. It requires high level of expertise to excel in this area. Pallet building is one of the most essential step of cargo handling. The pallet must be built optimally so that no space is wasted and no damage is done to the cargo. While building the pallet one must also take care of the height of the pallet. If the pallets’ height is more than the required height then it must not be loaded as it might not fit through the door and eventually damage the aircraft. Also if the height is too less then it is considered to be underutilization of space. We have different codes to represent different size of pallets. For e.g. PMC. PMC is a pallet with dimension 96*125. PAG on the other hand is a pallet with dimension of 88*125. If we break this code P stands for pallet, A/M represents the dimension and C/G represents the contour. Similarly we have containers with different codes as well starting with A which stand for certified aircraft container. For e.g. AKE.
Weight plays a major role in cargo department. The weight and balance department ensures the perfect placement of cargo to avoid any accident. We have many types of cargo, some are high in density and some are low. High density cargo such as valuable items (VAL) which consist of Gold or Silver bars. Low density cargo are mainly perishable goods (PER). The importance of weight and balance in aviation industry can be understood by incidents of tail tipping. Tail tipping is a situation when due to some reason the nose of the aircraft is lifted and tail of the aircraft touches the ground. There was an incident when Air India’s flight was carrying valuable cargo. While offloading, the locks were put down and the offloading started by the staff from the back. As the high density cargo was placed in the forward compartment, it slipped to the back of the aircraft resulting in lifting of the nose of the aircraft.
Cargo department is very unpredictable as one moment you might be shipping a live animal the other moment human remains and then a radioactive material. Cargo handles hazardous material (HAZMAT) as well. The code for any dangerous good starts with ‘R’ which indicates restricted. For e.g. RFG, RNG, ROX and so on. There are total 9 classes of dangerous goods. The dangerous goods that cargo handle are as following-
1. Explosive material
5. Oxidizing substances and organic peroxide
6. Toxic and infectious substances
7. Radioactive material
8. Corrosive material
Cargo handles each and every material and while dealing with a DG extra care is given and cargo is loaded as her the compatibility groups. For e.g. a live animal (AVI) for say dog cannot be placed next to dry ice (ICE) as the animal would need oxygen for its survival but dry ice has the property to kill all the oxygen in its surrounding. Hence they cannot be placed next to each other. Cargo is a field for the people who are ready to face challenges every day and for the people who do not want to lead a monotonous life.
Srishti Malkotia [BBA Aviation]
AirCrews Aviation Pvt Ltd
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