Component, Appliance or Aircraft Part?

An expensive asset, with a replacement value of US $ 1 Billion, unit load devices (ULDs) are still treated like the “distant relative that no one wants around” within the industry, despite having a direct contribution to flight safety. Speaking to Bob Rogers, Vice President at ULD Care; as well as ULD and operations experts at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), we look at why issues are still arising and how the two organisations are working to drive change.

According to IATA’s ULD Safety campaign, ULD repairs cost the industry US $ 330 million annually, of which 80% could be avoided if they are handled correctly. Still considered the number one cause of aircraft damage among all ground operations equipment, most issues stem from mishandling, lack of proper storage and most notably the lack of awareness that a ULD is an aircraft part.

ULD operations are under-recognized across the industry, this includes among some of the regulators. A major contributing factor is the widespread lack of industry understanding that ULDs are aircraft parts. Th is is partly due to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulations use of general terms such as ‘aircraft part’, ‘component’ or ‘appliance’ by which the ULD has been both ‘covered’ and ‘hidden’.


Ground Handling Operations

Another challenge in ULD safety is the complex ground handling operations set up in aviation. ULD are the only aircraft parts to leave control of the airline and return back on board after passing through many ‘unregulated’ hands (not directly governed by airworthiness regulations). Ground handlers, cargo terminals and freight forwarders all play a very important role in the ULD operational chain, but very little importance is placed on ensuring that stakeholders are aware that ULDs are aircraft parts that when placed in the aircraft, must deliver on both flight safety and regulatory compliance. Th is has left the ULD handling process open to high levels of vulnerability in the entire chain.