The FAA issued a new Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) 13005 to ensure that cargo carriers transporting heavy vehicles review all loading and securing procedures necessary for safe operations. The alert appears to be in response to the Boeing 747 takeoff accident at Bagram air base in Afghanistan on April 29.
One cause being investigated in that accident is the shifting of vehicular cargo aboard the aircraft just after takeoff that may have left the freighter uncontrollable. The alert is designed “to re-emphasize current policy and guidance concerning weight-and-balance control procedures, cargo loading procedures, loading schedules and loading instructions.” The notice reminds pilots, loadmasters and dispatchers that special vehicle loads require significant restraints beyond the typical cargo pallet.
It also emphasizes that individual operators are responsible for ensuring all personnel involved in the process of loading, securing and unloading the aircraft are properly trained. Training should include ensuring that aircraft tie-down limitations are never exceeded and that restraint requirements are calculated for longitudinal, lateral and vertical forces that might be encountered aloft. The SAFO makes it clear that even something as simple as use of tie-downs of different lengths could create a significant in-flight hazard.