Slips, lapses, and mistakes are inevitable with paper-based, manual aircraft loading processes. Let’s take a look at how FirstLoad – our automated load control application designed to mobilise traditional weight and balance software and empower airside operations with the latest information available – improves accuracy, efficiency, and safety by mitigating the risks of human error.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the loading of an aircraft directly impacts the safety and efficiency of every flight, without exception. Correctly loading an aircraft with cargo, baggage, and passengers improves flight safety and ensures optimum fuel performance. The consequences of getting it catastrophically wrong could, quite literally, cost lives which means that accuracy, efficiency, and safety forever remain the nec plus ultra of aircraft loading.
Traditionally, once the aircraft loading has been planned, loading teams have used paper-based instructions to show loading teams where each cargo and baggage commodity must be loaded. However, paper-based instructions often prove unreliable if, for example, up-to-date information is not communicated in a timely manner to or from the loading teams, resulting in a mismatch of the load sheet. Meanwhile, printing updated versions of the load sheet is time-consuming and often leads to confusion and/or miscommunication about what is or isn’t loaded on the aircraft. To make matters worse, as airline operations, timelines, and resources have been compressed and have become more complex, the risk of loading an aircraft incorrectly has increased significantly.
Any deviations from the aircraft loading plan result in an incorrect load sheet. Load sheet data is used to set the aircraft performance speed and balance calculations to ensure a safe take off and landing. An incorrect load sheet makes for inaccurate calculations which can result in an aircraft being unable to take off or being too tail-heavy, with the tail scraping on the ground on rotation. The ultimate risk, of course, is a potential catastrophic loss of an aircraft and lives on board.
No more paper!
Zafire’s FirstLoad is an automated loading instruction system that integrates in real-time communications with an airline’s weight and balance system. Using a PDA at the aircraft side to confirm and load all payload, the loading team leaders have complete control of clearing each commodity via FirstLoad as it is locked into place in the aircraft hold, whilst directly updating the weight and balance system as the flight progresses in real time. Ultimately, this means that the load sheet achieves 100% accuracy once loading is completed.
Airlines that have implemented FirstLoad have seen a reduction in loading errors by over 75% and an improvement in their ability to load an aircraft in much shorter timeframes. How is this possible? Let’s take a closer look at what FirstLoad has to offer:
- Any changes to the load plan are immediately updated when inputted by the load planning team with no need to print a new version of the instruction.
- Calls across continents to discuss and understand changes to the loading are eliminated, thereby reducing language barriers and associated misunderstandings.
- The loading teams can instantly request changes directly which means that they are able to continue loading safely even when cargo or baggage is missing, thereby enabling a more agile and safer approach to aircraft side operations.
- The ability to finalise loading completely prior to final load sheet release affords the opportunity to close the passenger doors and remove the aerobridge safe in the knowledge that the load sheet will require no further changes before pushback and the aircraft will require no further changes to performance calculations prior to take off.
FirstLoad’s ability to manage the loading process so accurately has a significant impact on safety improvements as well as reducing loss of revenue cost, re-flighting of bags and cargo, and negative impact on brand reputation when errors occur.
Twice as nice
Airlines and ground handlers can redouble the positive impact of FirstLoad on accuracy, efficiency, and safety when deploying FirstBag – Zafire’s web-based, bag management and reconciliation application which provides real-time information for airports, airlines, and ground handlers – concurrently. The ability to integrate these two systems enables a seamless reconciliation of bags for both airlines and ground handlers with bags tracked not just from check-in to aircraft, but even to precise loading positions in the hold. 100% accuracy when loading baggage containers or numbers into position greatly enhances load sheet and, ultimately, aircraft fuel and performance capability. Working in harmony, FirstLoad and FirstBag greatly improve the optimisation of payload and on-time performance all whilst ensuring safety remains paramount for aircraft, passengers, crew, and loading teams.