Lightweight containers – The next step

By Bob Rogers, President, Nordisk Aviation Products Asia Far too many years ago when I first started working in the ULD industry, with the 747’s, DC10’s and L1011’s just starting to take their place in the fleets of Asia Pacific’s airlines, a typical LD3 container weighed around 135 kg. Before long the airlines were facing […]


By Bob Rogers, President, Nordisk Aviation Products Asia

Far too many years ago when I first started working in the ULD industry, with the 747’s, DC10’s and L1011’s just starting to take their place in the fleets of Asia Pacific’s airlines, a typical LD3 container weighed around 135 kg. Before long the airlines were facing yet another oil crisis (maybe US$20 a barrel oil oh happy days) and tech services departments started to pursue the weightreduction chase.

The first steps downwards took an average LD3 to around 100 kg, mainly through better design, which enabled strength to be maintained or even increased while the weight came down, with the added bonus that with less aluminium, cost also came down.

After a lull of a few years with relatively stable oil prices weight again raised its ugly head as airlines sought to fly increasingly long non-stop flights, and the tare weight of a typical LD3 fell to around 75kg. At this weight the designer has little latitude, he has to maintain a structure that is strong enough to pass the certification tests listed in NAS 3610, create a structure that will not be susceptible to racking or twisting when carrying loads, and yet is only 75 kg, using just aluminum. Below 75 kg one has little choice but to move into alternative materials, and here it gets hard.