The COVID-19 outbreak has led to significant upheaval in the aviation industry, grounding nearly all passenger flights across the world.
One unexpected consequence of this unprecedented situation is that fleet operators are seeing demand for their spare capacity to be used to transport cargo rather than people, particularly in the case of mail and critical items such as medical and healthcare equipment.
To ensure the space with each aircraft is used to its full potential, operators are loading cargo into the upper deck of aircraft as well as the hold, using all available storage space in the overhead compartments as well as the seats.
In these unusual circumstances, safety is a paramount concern, and IATA has responded by issuing advice (Guidance for Safe Transport of Cargo in Passenger Cabin) that outlines the various risk assessments and adjustments that operators are required to make.
As the guidance states, passenger aircraft are not certified to carry cargo on passenger seats or cargo unit load devices (pallets or containers) in the passenger cabin secured on the seat’s tracks. Reconfiguration for this purpose requires “full evaluation of cargo restraints connected directly to the seat tracks to ensure structural loads are within design limits and the appropriate restraint system is applied” as well as formal authorisation from the national aviation authority of the State of the operator.
One key aspect outlined by IATA in its guidance (section 5.2) is the crucial role that weight and balance systems play in supporting the loading operators. The majority of these systems are exclusively programmed to manage passenger weights, meaning there is a need to make necessary adjustments so that accurate calculations can be made based on cargo instead.
A-WBS, our specialist weight and balance system, is one of a series of flexible A-ICE solutions that allow airlines to meet the new challenges associated with using the upper deck to transport cargo rather than passengers.
Current airline customers are already working with A-WBS to ensure certified pax aircraft are balanced safely and quickly. For new customers, the system can be deployed in just a few hours, rapidly integrating with existing programs and offering a high degree of customization.
As a company, A-ICE is proud to provide this service for operators, supporting their efforts to maintain a level of service in difficult circumstances.