I with the crew that says it was internal. A GSE Fire would have scored more of the lower outside.
What is scary is how long a fire can smolder with limited oxygen inside a ULD before a rupture delivers, and then takes off with the new air supply. ‘Ve seen some good suppression systems for ULDs, and also fire proof ULDs, but no one is flying them. I’m not convinced any of the onboard solutions are all that effective.
Agreed. They are some really good solutions for ULDs out there and most of the major ULD manufacturers offer fire proof ULD or fire suppression solution now. Some airlines are starting to adopt them as I'm starting seeing more of the fire proof ULDs. I do think that not enough of them are being utilized.
At least one airline is making a commitment to them by purchasing 3,000 FireShield ULDs from Nordisk.http://www.nordisk-aviation.com/en/news/3000-fireshield-containers-to-large-multinational-airline/
Problem is that not all freight is loaded into ULD's that are enclosed. There is a large percentage of freight that is loaded onto aircraft pallets (the large flat metal ones) often shrink wrapped and then netted. They are easy to build up and can be made up for either lower or main deck loading. Shippers like them, as they are easy to build up with forklifts from all sides, rather than just the one entrance and the freight is easily secured to the pallet. Airlines like them, as they don't have to commit staff to building them up and if they do, again they have the advantage of them being easily built up.
The glaring drawback of these pallets though, is that most shippers will cover them in plastic sheet to protect them from the weather, more often than not that plastic is black and thus the airline has no idea what is actually under that plastic sheet, without breaking open the netting/tie downs and removing the plastic. It becomes very much a matter of trust that the shipper/freight forwarder is doing the right thing and not putting undeclared DG's on board and is also labeling the consignment correctly. Air freight is very much a matter of trust that everyone is doing the right thing and it just takes one person to take a short cut and not declare something correctly, package/label something incorrectly and these are the types of incidents that can happen. Again, this crew was extremely lucky and ET should be making a thorough investigation into everything that was on the aircraft, from how it was loaded, labeled, declared and into the forwarders/shippers as well.
This is indeed the truth. Air freight is a huge network of trust and assumption. Known shippers have passed the trust part, but you will never quite know for sure about every single individual shipment. And spot checks can only do so much. One of the safety nets however is that the fines for security/customs breaches can be absolutely massive. But unfortunately so too are the risks. It's all part of the reason why many pax airlines no longer allow walk ins to ship on pax flights, even though whatever they send would be screened.
Problem with those fireproof (and I've seen explosion proof as well) ULDs is usually weight. The overwhelming majority of what gets shipped isn't a fire hazard, but you still have to carry that extra weight of the fireproof ULD no matter what. Also to put it simply...ULDs of any sort get treated like crap. They're left outside, get bumped by forklifts, baggage tugs, slide around the ground, stacked up etc etc. If the fireproof abilities depend on the integrity of the ULD, it's going to spend more time in the shop than flying.
Love the pictures on the nordisk site of pmcs stacked perfectly like a deck of cards. Load each of them on one flight and they'll never fit like that again!