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International Forwarding Association Blog » Air freight in Europe » Safeguarding Hazardous Air Freight in Europe

Safeguarding Hazardous Air Freight in Europe

Cargo aircraft involved in air freight in Europe must adhere to stringent safety protocols to prevent accidents while in the air. These protocols include advanced containment systems, monitoring technologies, and fire suppression strategies designed to ensure the safe transport of dangerous goods.


Cargo Containment Solutions

Cargo aircraft carrying dangerous materials are typically equipped with fire-resistant containers and spill containment pallets to ensure safe transportation.

Fire-resistant containers are used to ship dangerous goods that are flammable, explosive, or highly reactive, including materials such as nitroglycerin, picric acid, and sodium. These containers are constructed from advanced materials such as high-grade steel or reinforced aluminum that offer both durability and resistance to high temperatures, typically up to 1,200 degrees Celsius. They are also designed to seal tightly and prevent any leakage of fumes that could potentially ignite or explode. The sealing mechanism is usually a combination of gaskets made from chemical-resistant materials such as Viton or silicon and locking mechanisms that create an airtight and liquid-tight seal.

In addition to these specialized containers, aircraft are also equipped with spill containment pallets designed to manage any accidental leaks or spills from containers. If containers are compromised, either due to damage or improper sealing, the spill containment pallets catch the leaking substance. The design of the pallets itself is intentionally focused on leak containment: each features a flat platform with raised edges that confine spills within the platform’s boundaries. Above this secure base, a removable grating allows spilled liquids to drain and be safely collected below. The grating also supports the containers and keeps them elevated above any accumulated liquid.


Cargo Safety Systems

Shock sensors and load monitoring systems help detect any potential disturbances that might compromise the safety of the cargo. Shock sensors, in particular, are designed to detect and record impacts and vibrations that can occur while the plane is in the air. These sensors are highly sensitive and can distinguish between normal flight vibrations, routine turbulence, and a sudden drop due to air pockets. Upon detecting such an anomaly, the crew can take corrective actions, such as adjusting the aircraft’s flight path or speed to smoother conditions.

Load monitoring systems further enhance safety throughout the flight. Equipped with load cells and balance sensors, these systems continuously assess the weight distribution and stability of the cargo. When these systems detect shifts that could destabilize the aircraft, they alert the crew to take action, such as adjusting the load if possible or altering the flight dynamics to compensate for the shift.


Fire Suppression

Crafts shipping hazardous goods are also equipped with specialized fire suppression systems tailored to the types of dangerous goods on board. For instance, flights carrying volatile chemicals like acetone and methanol may have gas-based suppression systems. These systems release inert gases that absorb heat and displace oxygen, thus halting the combustion process. In contrast, aircraft transporting flammable solids such as fireworks or matches employ suppression systems that release powders. These powders spread over the surfaces of the combustible materials and prevent air from reaching the material and fueling the fire.