UK safety authority highlights loading error risks

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UK safety regulators are reminding operators of the potential hazard of aircraft loading errors, pointing out that reporting of loading-related incidents has been inconsistent.

The Civil Aviation Authority says that errors primarily fall into two categories: incorrectly-secured loads and discrepancies between documentation and actual load.

In a newly-revised information notice it states that incidents related to transporting electric mobility aids have become more common, and that a “significant” number of events involving inadequately-secured items have concerned dangerous goods.

“The majority of unsecured load incidents were only discovered on arrival at destination, although sometimes flight crews had been alerted by unusual sounds from the hold,” it says.

The information notice is dated 11 April, the day after UK investigators released details of an incident in which a Titan Airways Boeing 737-300 experienced in-flight control issues after being incorrectly loaded at Edinburgh.

Discrepancies have occasionally remained undetected because loads unaccounted by documentation remained on board aircraft for several sectors before being discovered.

The Civil Aviation Authority also says that, in some cases, aircraft have potentially been 1,000kg heavier than documented because – although balance calculations used standard masses – a significant number of loaded bags exceeded allowable values.

Investigation into the problem, it states, suggests that the majority of incidents were not identified because the individual responsible for checking load distribution and restraint had not completed these tasks – despite signing the documentation.

“It is vital that the mass and balance documentation is confirmed as an accurate representation of the actual load on the aircraft and the traffic load is correctly secured, before departure,” it adds.

Although ground-handlers routinely report occurrences to carriers, the information notice says this is “not sufficient” in the case of a non-UK carrier, because foreign operators do not have a mandatory reporting obligation.