$10m air cargo ULD safety research centre opens

By Rebecca Jeffrey

Photo: Satco

US ULD manufacturer Satco has opened a $10m air cargo safety research centre (ARC) for Unit Load Devices (ULD) featuring a fire safety test facility.

The Satco ARC facility in Ohio aims to optimise the manufacturing process and safety of unit load devices (ULDs), ultimately increasing the safety of air cargo transportation.

With the massive increase of products using lithium-ion batteries, the risk of fire in cargo carried on aircrafts has become more prominent, which is why a focus point of the Satco ARC facility is the fire safety test facility or “burn” lab.

Satco said it is the only ULD manufacturer with its own fire safety test facility, which is one of only a handful of testing facilities in the US.

During a test, a controlled fire is set inside a ULD within the lab. The facility is monitored by 12 thermal imaging and HD video cameras and multiple thermal sensors to understand how a ULD is impacted by a fire during a test. The tests run for a minimum of six hours and temperatures can reach 1400+°F.

The ARC facility also houses a component testing area where the parts that make up a ULD can be tested for fire resistance and safety. This ensures every part of the ULD is fire resistant before a complete container is made and retested in the burn lab.

“This facility gives us even more control over the safety of our products,” said Michael Howell, senior vice president of operations and maintenance services at Satco. “We don’t have to wait in line at other testing facilities because we have our own. We are able to run tests whenever we need to and can quickly evaluate our products and get them to market faster.”

Mike Proctor, president and chief executive officer of Satco, said: “At the end of the day, the Satco ARC facility allows us to ensure we are manufacturing the safest ULDs on the market.

“It also gives us a resource to anticipate new potential fire hazards in flight and plan for them. We can’t just wait for a catastrophe to happen to advance the industry; we have to be proactive.”

Satco undertakes ULD design, engineering, manufacture and maintenance work worldwide.

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