What makes an effective cargo load planning?

We spoke with Nazir Zaidi aka JJ, Teleport’s Load Planning Manager, who is at the frontline operations and the first to understand when our cargo transportation plans are not able to proceed as intended. The Load Planning team’s role is essentially to react quickly to abrupt changes and find creative re-routing solutions to ensure every single delivery is transported as intended.

JJ (second from the right) with his teammates

What are the typical challenges that you face in Load Planning?

In theory, though the cargo should be able to fit in the belly space of an aircraft, the different arrangements caused by the high volume sizes of each cargo package may result in offloading.

1. A320/A321 (Narrow-body Aircraft)

The challenge for Commercial Passenger flight using a Narrow-body aircraft is to arrange for high volume cargo sizes when it is being operated with a high number of passenger’s luggage. Oftentimes with the numbers being unpredictable and increasing at the very last minute, this may lead to the cargo being offloaded as priority is for passenger’s luggage on a passenger flight.

2. A330 (Wide-body Aircraft)

The challenge for the wide-body aircraft is similar but a little more complicated, especially when the cargo received are not stackable or are not allowed to be placed upside down (i.e., sensitive cargo). This is a challenge because, in theory, though the total cargo volume should fit in the aircraft, there will be space wastage when accommodating these special requirements. Ultimately needing another flight for the offloaded cargo.

What is the difference between planning for a Passenger Flight and a Cargo-Only Flight?

For a passenger flight, we would not know the passengers’ final seating onboard, as changes often occur last minute. It affects our planning because we will need to divide the cargo load into three or four zones, depending on the type of aircraft and based on the final passengers’ seating. There will also be weight and balance challenges when we have passengers who do not stay at their assigned seats, as the number of passengers in each zone has an impact on our loading procedure.

The difference for a cargo-only flight is that the Load Planners need not take the passengers’ seating and the number of passengers onboard into consideration. A challenge we face is when the number of pieces, weight and dimensions provided in the booking details are not 100% accurate with the actual shipment that arrived at the warehouse. This will affect the arrangement of the cargo which may result in cargo offloading.

How would cabin loading affect the Load Planner’s routine?

It affects a Load Planner’s routine, as I would be able to plan strategically to fit more cargo based on the maximum allowable payload. Though the challenge occurs when the actual dimension of the cargo is not the same as what was stated in the booking details. Hence, an accurate booking detail is very important for us Load Planners to visualize and prepare the cargo load plan.

If you could improve on one thing for cargo loading, what would it be?

I would love to rebuild the shipment to maximise any leftover spaces, as every single CM is valuable. For example, in the A330 aircraft, 1 pallet (PMC) is usually built-up with 6 pieces of skid cargo and a total height of 150CM. Theoretically, there would be another 15CM space on top of the pallet before reaching the maximum height of 165CM. Using the picture below as a reference, this is an actual cargo loading with an empty space on top. If we can utilise this space, we can carry additionally 1.42CBM of cargo for every pallet.

Empty spaces on an actual cargo load

Name three weight and balance jargons that a Load Planner uses in a daily context. Explain them in layman terms.

CG: Center of Gravity. This is the point of aircraft stability and it is important to ensure that each aircraft’s CG is optimum when doing weight and balance.

DOW: Dry Operating Weight. It is the basic weight of each aircraft plus the operation items such as the crews and flight equipment.

MTOW: Maximum Takeoff Weight. It is the maximum weight allowed by the pilot in command (PIC) before attempting to take off.

Name your favourite part of the aircraft’s belly compartment.

My favourite part would be the compartment area that stores the highest number of loads, for example, Compartment 2 in an Airbus A330 (Wide-body Aircraft). This space is bigger than other compartments and it can carry a higher volume of cargo. As a Load Planner, it is very satisfying when a space is fully filled with cargo.

We hope you guys have a clearer understanding of what happens behind the scenes when the team plans for an effective cargo load!

(Originally published on the Teleport Blog on May 28, 2020.)

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