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Loew
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All about containers

Sat May 22, 2021 4:35 pm

I was lucky enough to catch a flight during these times, and it is these containers being loaded into the plane that caught my attention. Who owns them? How are they made? Can they withstand a fire or explosion in flight? Do they have preassigned route, or are they just being sent to whichever destination? What happens to damaged containers? Is there any tracking system for these in place? How often are they being replaced? Are there any new models coming to the market or is this just the same old design? Are these certified by any authority? Thanks ahead for any replies :)
 
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fr8mech
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Re: All about containers

Sat May 22, 2021 5:15 pm

They fall under the general category of Unit Load Devices (ULD). Here’s a quick primer on them.

https://www.aviation-professional.net/2 ... ation.html

Wiki has a decent article in them also.

The current FAA guidance on them is here (TSO C90):

https://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guid ... enDocument

They are typically owned by the operator, though I guess some cargo outfits probably own a bunch of them and lease space on aircraft.

Yes, they have some fire resistance, I don’t know how much. No, they are typically not explosion proof, though I’m sure someone builds one that can withstand an explosion for certain applications. But, to maintain and operate thousands of explosion proof ULD’s would be cost prohibitive and limit the aircraft payload.

Damaged containers will be repaired in house or via a vendor.

They are most certainly tracked, at least my operator tracks them.
Last edited by fr8mech on Sat May 22, 2021 5:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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shamrock137
Posts: 409
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Re: All about containers

Sat May 22, 2021 5:15 pm

Lots of questions, I'll do my best. A couple phrases to help you in searching for more info. They are called Unit Load Devices (ULD) and they come in many shapes and sizes. The most common is the LD3, this is used by most widebodies adn the shorter versions are used in narrowbodies. Sometimes they're just called containers, or cans. Aircraft can be configured to take different numbers and types of containers. An aircraft that doesn't use containers is usually referred to having a "bulk" cargo hold. Widebodies will have both, cargo holds for containers, and a bulk hold, usually in the back, where bags and cargo are loaded manually. Aircraft like the A320 can be ordered from Airbus with both options. Most A320's in Europe use containers, while most in the US and Asia have bulk bins.

Who owns them?
It depends, some airlines own their own containers, and some use 3rd party companies like Jettainer to manage their inventory. In that case, Jettainer provides the ULD's and tracks them, ensuring each station has the right amount. At least thats the idea haha.

How are they made?
Not quite sure what you mean by this? There are many different types. Some are just for luggage, some are for cargo, some are even refrigerated for shipping items that need to be chilled. They can be metal, metal frame with fabric, fiberglass, some are also composite.

Can they withstand a fire or explosion in flight?
Not usually, There are specialty ones that are fire resistant, UPS ordered a number of containers like this after some inflight fires, lithium battery fires usually cant be put out by the onboard fire extinguishing systems. Overall though, the goal of these containers is to be lightweight, they aren't very strong. If one is empty it can usually be moved by hand, or even a strong breeze can send them tumbling across the ramp.

Do they have preassigned route, or are they just being sent to whichever destination?
Again, it depends. Some are just out and back, some will get sent around the system. If you use a common system like Jettainer your airport might have a pool of containers that you are assigned containers from.

What happens to damaged containers?
Repaired or scrapped depending on how bad the damage is. Some larger airports have container graveyards through. Especially if you're using a 3rd party cut rate ground handler, containers seem to go "missing" and end up behind hangers, hidden in bag rooms, or just discarded carelessly.

Is there any tracking system for these in place?
Yes, for example if an airline is sending a flight from a hub to a city, and that flight has lots of freight, but the return flight from the city to the hub doesn't have much freight, the city would need to send the empty containers back.

How often are they being replaced?
Someone else will have to help here, not sure...

Are there any new models coming to the market or is this just the same old design?
Yep, lightweight is the most important part, but balanced with being affordable. They used to be all aluminum, but like I mentioned some are now metal frames covered in high strength fabric, fiberglass or composite or specialty for shipping different items. There are even containers that are the crew rest area for some widebodies. LH had mobile crew rest containers for their A340's that could be added and removed as needed, just like a luggage container.

Are these certified by any authority?
Yep, FAA, EASA, ICAO, etc. Wherever your airline is headquartered would govern certifying your container types.



Here is a semi recent thread on containers. Searching LD3, ULD or containers should bring up some other threads too. Hope this helps.
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Max Q
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Re: All about containers

Mon May 31, 2021 2:02 am

Interesting that shipping containers as used on er, ships, trains and trucks could fit inside the 747 freighter if loaded through the swing nose door, it was a design consideration that was accommodated and demonstrated


However it just wasn’t economic due to the weight of that container type


There’s a picture out there somewhere of a shipping container being loaded in that manner !
The best contribution to safety is a competent Pilot.


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FGITD
Posts: 1578
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Re: All about containers

Mon May 31, 2021 7:16 pm

Loew wrote:
I was lucky enough to catch a flight during these times, and it is these containers being loaded into the plane that caught my attention. Who owns them? How are they made? Can they withstand a fire or explosion in flight? Do they have preassigned route, or are they just being sent to whichever destination? What happens to damaged containers? Is there any tracking system for these in place? How often are they being replaced? Are there any new models coming to the market or is this just the same old design? Are these certified by any authority? Thanks ahead for any replies :)


Already a lot of great info posted by Shamrock, but i like dealing with containers at work so I’ll throw in my info too. Talking about luggage AKE/AKN unless otherwise specified. (Cargo pallets aren’t so interesting...it’s a metal sheet with numbers printed on it, and a side rail to attach nets)

Some owned by airlines, others by groups that share inventory. Usually you can tell by the branding on the side. If it’s got the airline logo, it’s probably owned by them. Even amongst those owned by airlines, there’s usually some degree of sharing within alliances. I’ve seen KL use DL, BA use AA, LH use UA, for example.

Most that I see these days are hollow tube metal frames with fiberglass walls. No idea how they’re actually made. They have a specified “burn rate” that’s posted on the ID placard (usually a small metal plate with the manufacturer, date of manufacture, tare weight, owner, etc) There are some that can allegedly take an explosion, but they’re heavy and most ramps have never seen one, let alone used one. To give you a reference on their durability...I once had an AKE stuck in aircraft via a restraint that we couldn’t access due to aforementioned AKE being in the way...I was able to cut a hole in it using a pen. So not the toughest material.

They get sent wherever needed. Most outstations keep an inventory based on their average needs. If you have too many, they go back to the hub either empty or very light. Nothing worse than needing AKEs and not having any.

Each AKE has a tracking number (usually it’s AKE12345XX with the airline code instead of XX) For most airlines I’ve worked with, once it’s loaded onto a flight via whatever load control software they use, it’s status goes from the airport to in transit, and then to whatever the destination airport is once the aircraft lands. With my company, you can search any ULD number and view its history/where it is now. You want to talk FF miles, AKEs at my company usually go around the world every few days.

Damaged get sent back to hubs for repair, either loaded as is (always empty if broken) or built on a pallet if it’s too broken to be locked in to the aircraft, usually due to structural damage. Our hubs have giant container shops where they fix them or discard them. They get damaged by everything...loaders, aircraft, tugs, heavy or unusual shape bags...everything. Where I work they seem to last about 10 years or so, but by the end we’ve got more of an AKE of Thesus situation going on.

There are some new models coming out, same designs but lighter. In my years with the airlines, the weight has gone from 75kg+ down to about 60kg. Not too bad when you factor in 10-14 of them on a flight. I’ve also seen some that replaced the fiberglass walls with a material that almost felt like bubble wrap but more durable.
 
JayinKitsap
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Re: All about containers

Mon May 31, 2021 10:18 pm

 
PlymSpotter
Posts: 10823
Joined: Thu Jun 17, 2004 7:32 am

Re: All about containers

Sat Jun 05, 2021 11:39 pm

FGITD wrote:
Each AKE has a tracking number (usually it’s AKE12345XX with the airline code instead of XX) For most airlines I’ve worked with, once it’s loaded onto a flight via whatever load control software they use, it’s status goes from the airport to in transit, and then to whatever the destination airport is once the aircraft lands. With my company, you can search any ULD number and view its history/where it is now. You want to talk FF miles, AKEs at my company usually go around the world every few days.


Do you know if this is possible for other airlines? A few months ago I purchased two former VS AKE containers and I'd love to know where they had flown during their operational life.

They are fiberglass models with an aluminium base, and will be seeing out their retirement as storage for our firewood.


Dan :)
...love is just a camouflage for what resembles rage again...
 
FGITD
Posts: 1578
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Re: All about containers

Sat Jun 05, 2021 11:53 pm

PlymSpotter wrote:
FGITD wrote:
Each AKE has a tracking number (usually it’s AKE12345XX with the airline code instead of XX) For most airlines I’ve worked with, once it’s loaded onto a flight via whatever load control software they use, it’s status goes from the airport to in transit, and then to whatever the destination airport is once the aircraft lands. With my company, you can search any ULD number and view its history/where it is now. You want to talk FF miles, AKEs at my company usually go around the world every few days.


Do you know if this is possible for other airlines? A few months ago I purchased two former VS AKE containers and I'd love to know where they had flown during their operational life.

They are fiberglass models with an aluminium base, and will be seeing out their retirement as storage for our firewood.


Dan :)


I'm not personally familiar with the VS system, but I know some people who are. I'll look into it!

Speaking from my experience however, the easiest answer is to look at a VS route map, and then assume each of your AKEs has been to every dot on that map many hundreds of times.
 
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9MMPQ
Posts: 473
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Re: All about containers

Sun Jun 06, 2021 6:40 am

PlymSpotter wrote:
Do you know if this is possible for other airlines? A few months ago I purchased two former VS AKE containers and I'd love to know where they had flown during their operational life.

They are fiberglass models with an aluminium base, and will be seeing out their retirement as storage for our firewood.
Dan :)


Very creative, i like it :D
Do share a picture with us.

Every airline or ULD management company is able to see the movement history. You could always drop a line to VS directly, from their own website there's [email protected] to try & contact. Ask the question & share a picture with them. I'm sure it will be a first for whoever is on duty, it will definitely be something else then the routine stock, movement & damage monitoring they see daily.

Let us know how you get on.
I believe in coincidences. Coincidences happen every day. But I don't trust coincidences.
 
PlymSpotter
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Joined: Thu Jun 17, 2004 7:32 am

Re: All about containers

Wed Jun 09, 2021 10:10 pm

FGITD wrote:
I'm not personally familiar with the VS system, but I know some people who are. I'll look into it!

Speaking from my experience however, the easiest answer is to look at a VS route map, and then assume each of your AKEs has been to every dot on that map many hundreds of times.


Thank you! That would be quite some mileage - one has a serial plate on it which suggests it was built in 2013, so that's 6-7 years of solid travelling.

9MMPQ wrote:
Very creative, i like it :D
Do share a picture with us.

Every airline or ULD management company is able to see the movement history. You could always drop a line to VS directly, from their own website there's [email protected] to try & contact. Ask the question & share a picture with them. I'm sure it will be a first for whoever is on duty, it will definitely be something else then the routine stock, movement & damage monitoring they see daily.

Let us know how you get on.


That's a really great idea, thank you. I will drop them a line :)

I'm afraid I only have a picture as they arrived on our driveway from Heathrow. One of them now has around 50 small logs in it, and already it is too heavy to move by hand!

This idea came about because we have a small woodland that we manage for our firewood, and I realised how much time (1-2 weeks solid work each year) I spent collecting, moving and stacking logs. My plan is to build a twin axle off road trailer, which I can use to drive the AKE right up to wherever I'm cutting logs, and load them directly into it. The bed of the trailer will have rollers (upside-down industrial castor wheels) so the loaded AKE can then be pushed off into a covered storage area (which will also have rollers), where the logs will hopefully dry just like being in a stack against a wall. Once seasoned for a year or two, the AKE can then be rolled back onto the trailer and driven to the house and left, with the flap down so the logs stay dry. All in theory... it will take a few years to know if it actually works!

Image


Dan :)
...love is just a camouflage for what resembles rage again...

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