Types of Aeroplanes used in air cargo
Air cargo is a vital component in most international delivery networks, with goods worth billions of pounds being transported in and out of Airports every day. But what air cargo is and how it works are topics which aren’t understood or well-known.
What is air cargo?
Air cargo are goods or property transported by aeroplanes typically to international destinations. Most major carriers, including UPS, FedEx, DHL and TNT own hundreds of aeroplanes used for this purpose. In general, more high-value and time-critical goods are transported by air freight rather than sea cargo. Air cargo is transported on passenger flights and dedicated cargo planes.
Passenger Freight Cargo
Nearly every passenger flight in the air will be carrying some kind or freight cargo in its baggage hold, also known as the ‘belly’. Packages which are to be sent by air freight will be consolidated with other cargo and packed into Unit Load Containers (ULC), that are stored in the storage bay underneath a plane’s passenger compartment.
Unit load containers are made from Aluminium and consist of two types, pallets and containers.
Cargo transport has become a significant income generator for airline companies as some aeroplanes such as the Boeing 777-300ER can carry over 20 metric tons in their hold. It is estimated that 50% or more of international passenger flights are profitable only because of the cargo they carry on their trips.
Dedicated Cargo Planes
Shipping companies such as UPS, FedEx, DHL and TNT operate cargo aeroplanes, designed purely to transport freight by air. FedEx for instance has a fleet of nearly 700 aircraft. Some airlines will use de-commissioned passenger planes which are re-fitted to carry cargo.
The Boeing 777 which is FedEx’s biggest plane can carry up to 102 metric tonnes of goods.All cargo planes have the facility of opening up the nose of the aircraft, which allows large and oddly shaped freight to be loaded into the plane. The floor of a cargo aircraft will be equipped with electric rollers, which allow unit load containers to be moved to either the front or rear of the aircraft, without the need of a forklift truck.
Super transporter aircraft are designed solely for moving oversized goods, such as tanks and spacecraft. Well known super transporters and air freighters include the Airbus Beluga, Boeing Dreamlifter and the Antonov An-225, which is the world’s biggest transportation plane. In recent years the Antonov An-225 has flown a variety of items such as over 200,000 prepared meals for American service members in the Middle East, Electric Generators, Chimneys and Wind Turbines.
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