Certified Unit Load Devices (ULDs)
Unit Load Devices (ULDs) are nearly always required to be approved for use, that is to say, certified for continued airworthiness by the relevant Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). That’s because, just like any other aircraft component, ULDs have to be robust enough to cope with all likely and extreme circumstances during flight (e.g. when the aircraft accelerates and decelerates, banks, climbs and descends or hits air pockets or turbulence). Under such severe circumstances, a certified ULD ensures the cargo does not move around the hold, endangering the aircraft’s structure and systems, because it is locked to the hold’s floor.
It must be noted that the certification process is conducted solely between the ULD manufacturer and the applicable regulatory authorities such as FAA (Federal Aviation Administration in the USA) and EASA (European Aviation Safety Aviation in Europe).
VRR designs and manufactures each of its ULDs to comply with the regulations set by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), in this case the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Every design is submitted to EASA, along with design calculations and current test reports.
Once EASA is satisfied that the ULD has been designed, tested and manufactured to the approved standards (i.e. it is strong enough), it approves the ULD, which is then classed as a certified ULD. Certified ULDs can be accepted for use on any type of aircraft as long as they are compatible with the plane’s loading and restraint systems and its contour.
View the infographic to gain some insight into that certification process.
Although non-certified containers are manufactured to the same standards as certified containers, they still need indirect approval from the airline (carrier) and can only be loaded into an aircraft in accordance with the instructions of the aircraft manufacturer’s Weight and Balance Manual for that specific aircraft.
Why do airlines use certified ULDs if non-certified ULDs are made to the same standards?
Airlines may decide which types of ULD may or may not be loaded on their aircraft. However, many ULDs are transferred between aircraft and even other airlines before reaching their destination. Therefore, it is usually safer and more convenient to use certified ULDs.