Fire-proof ULDs for UPS sparks heated discussion

MORE than once the integrators have blazed new trails for the rest of air cargo to follow. Is UPS writing a new chapter, this time in safety?
From now until next spring, the integrator is taking 1,821 new containers on board, all of them built with new materials and made to protect aircraft and their crews. The ULDs are fire-resistant, designed to withstand intense fires for four hours or more, in order to give pilots sufficient time to land their ‘planes in such an emergency.
The new ULDs are made of MACROLite panels stretched across an aluminium frame. MACROLite is a fibre-reinforced plastic composite similar to that used in ballistic body armour. The units work by depriving a fire of oxygen. In tests they have withstood temperatures of 1,200 degrees for up to four hours.
Such a ULD would have made a huge difference in the fire that led to the crash of a UPS B747 freighter near Dubai in 2010, which killed both crew members.
In July of this year, the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority released its final report on the tragedy. It did not identify lithium-ion batteries as the cause of the blaze, but made it clear that the batteries inside the container where the fire occurred exacerbated and accelerated it. The report also calls for better fire detection and containment systems on aircraft and in cargo containers.
Management at UPS obviously agrees with these conclusions. 
Read Ian Putzger’s full piece in the next edition of Air Cargo News 21 October 2013 – Issue No. 763

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