Dimensions and specifications of air containers and pallets

Update date:
21 May 2024
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Date of publication:
06 Apr 2024
Reading time: 3 minutes

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Every day, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), as many as 100,000 aircraft take off to transport 140,000 tonnes of various goods. This is a huge scale that shows just how important the air transport for the global economy.The value of these shipments, reaches USD 18.6 billion. This demonstrates the importance and dynamism of this sector. In air transport, cargo can be transported in both specially adapted cargo aircraft and passenger aircraft. In passenger aircraft, cargo is transported below deck. 

Air containers and pallets - dimensions

Standard dimensions for air containers and pallets are defined by organisations such as IATA and the Air Cargo Container Standards Committee (ACCS). 

Aircraft containers are made of lightweight aluminium, while aircraft pallets are made of aluminium or plastic. Each pallet or container has its own ULD (Unit Load Devices) marking, which makes it possible to identify them. Goods stacked on pallets are additionally protected by a special net. 

The most commonly used containers in air transportzym: 

LD3

IATA CODE ULD AKE, DKE, MKE, QKE, RKE
Compatible with aircraftA300, A310, A330, A340, A380, B747, B767, B777, B787, DC-10 and others
Maximum weight1,588 kg
Loading volume4.3 m3
Dimensions Lower base
(D) 156.2cm x (W) 153.4cm

Upper base
(L) 200.6 cm x (W) 149.4 cm

Height: 162.6 cm 

LD3 refrigeration

IATA CODE ULD RKN
Compatible with aircraftB747, B767, B777, DC10, M11 lower hold
Maximum weight1,588 kg
Loading volume4.5 m3

Dimensions :Lower base
(D) 156.2cm x (W) 153.4cm

Upper base
(L) 200.6 cm x (W) 149.4 cm

Height: 162.6 cm 

LD9

IATA CODE ULDAAZ, AAP, ONCE, RAP
Compatible with aircraftA300, A310, A340, B747, B767, B777, B787, DC-10, MD-11
Maximum weight6,000 kg
Loading volume9.8 m3
Dimensions :317.5 cm x 162.6 cm x 223.5 cm ( length x height x width )

The most commonly used pallets in air transport: 

PMC/P6P

IATA CODE ULDP6C, P6P, PQP, PMC, PMP
Compatible with aircraftA300, A310, A340, B747, B767, B777, B787, DC-10, MD-11
Maximum weight6,800 kg
Volume11.5 m3 - 21.2 m3
Dimensions:317.5 cm x 162.6 to 299.7 cm x 243.8 cm ( length x height x width )

PGA

IATA CODE ULDP7A, P7E, P7F, PSG, PGE, PGA
Compatible with aircraftB747-MD
Maximum weight11,340 kg
Volume:21.2 m3
Dimensions:605.8 cm x 243.8 cm x 243.8 cm ( length x height x width )

What does ULD mean? 

An ULD, or 'Unit Load Device', is a container or pallet used in air transport to carry cargo, baggage and other materials. These specially designed units are adapted to the cargo hold of aircraft. They facilitate the loading and unloading process and optimise the cargo space on board. Examples of ULDs include containers, pallets and specially adapted crates that can be easily loaded onto aircraft and transported using airport equipment. 

How are goods shipped by air cargo?

Goods in air cargo are shipped underneath passenger aircraft or in aircraft adapted for cargo transport. Cargo is transported on special pallets or containers designed for air transport. Their dimensions and labelling are regulated by organisations such as IATA. 

Example of loading on a Boeing 747 aircraft 

AIRBUS aircraft cross-section

Who regulates the cargo transport market? - IATA

The International Air Transport Association, also known as IATA, plays a key role in regulating the cargo transport market. IATA is an international industry organisation that represents most of the world's airlines. Its main objective is to promote the safety, efficiency and sustainability of the airline industry. In the context of cargo transport, IATA develops and implements international standards and rules that address, among other things, safe packaging and labelling of shipments, cargo clearance procedures and staff training requirements. 

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