How to achieve Automation in Load Control (5 of 7): Importance of Automated Background Checks
For Load Control organizations automation is the main driver to execute the Weight and Balance process more efficiently. Within this blog I would like to share with you my thoughts about the importance of automated background checks provided by a fully automated application support.
Automation in Load Control
For Load Control organizations automation is the main driver to execute the Weight and Balance process more efficiently. That is why I highlight in this multi-part blog “How to achieve automation in Load Control” different functional Load Control areas and their automation potential within the Weight and Balance process.
In this specific blog I would like to share with you my thoughts about the importance of automated background checks provided by a fully automated application support.
What are automated background checks?
Load Control background checks in my definition are fully automated, system supported checks to ensure compliance for the aircraft loading as well as structural, weight and trim limitations. Automated checks will also alert the Load Controller pro-actively in case any weight, trim or structural rule as well as a loading combination within the Load Control process does not match with safety issues or any other regulatory guidelines.
Types of background checks
What kind of checks am I talking about in detail? In the following an overview about the five most important check categories and examples:
Aircraft structural & weight limitations. Examples:
- Combined Load Limitation
- Cumulative Load Restriction
- Lateral Imbalance Check
- Maximum Lateral Unsymmetrical Load
- Maximum Combined Load
Aircraft hold configuration. Examples:
- Allowed ULD sizes for a specific aircraft type
Aircraft trim. Examples:
- Trim limits (TOW Limits, LAW Limits, Ferry Limits)
- Tail tipping limits
Dangerous Goods Handling. Examples:
- IATA dangerous goods restrictions (including DG substance, amount, etc.)
- RRY checks
- Adjacent loads (minimum distances)
Zero Fuel Weight Limit Checks. Examples:
- ZFW Tolerance Checks before Load Sheet creation
- ZFW / MAC allowance checks after release of the last load sheet edition, to cover Last Minute Changes (LMC).
Impact on productivity
From a productivity point of view and looking at this list above, manually executed background checks are contra-productive as they represent time consuming (complex) evaluations. We all know, how much time one can spend on “searching, looking up and evaluating” certain (complex) facts or circumstances within paper documents, manuals or external databases. Such manuals, especially for dangerous goods handling, I have seen still in place within many Load Control organizations. Therefore automated background checks represent a big lever for productivity increase ambitions: This time-consuming and typically slow manual activities can be omitted and the “additional time saved” can be used for processing more flights simultaneously or other more important activities, that can´t be solved without human interference, such as solving LMCs or other operational deviations.
The alpha and omega of Load Control: safety!
Apart from this time saving aspect though there is another, even more important facet of Weight and Balance operations that is covered by automated background checks. It is the alpha and omega of the airlines operational activities: ensuring safety!
Let us just recap what safety means within the Load Control context again:
- Because of the law of physics and aerodynamics a preparation for a safe flight must adhere to strict aircraft and flight limits.
- The aircraft must be loaded, so structural limits are not exceeded.
- It must be loaded correctly to maintain its balance from take- off through landing and unloading.
- Consideration must be given to each different aircraft type.
- This includes additionally the weight and distribution of fuel, cargo, bags and passengers.
We all know, that as a result of these safety requirements, each commercial flight departing in the world must have a load sheet, giving the Captain the complete information about all weight, trim, passenger and safety relevant aspects concerning the upcoming flight. Above this in many cases we shall also not forget that during the Weight and Balance process the captain has to rely on output and expertise of the Load Controller, where we exactly find ourselves at another safety issue not to be underestimated: The human error.
Complex tasks increase the safety risk
What do I mean? If talking about such highly complex safety checks that have to be executed with much care, another aspect comes along: When things are done manually, there is a big risk for human errors. One protection mechanism against such human errors are therefore improved Load Control safety and compliance processes. The solution again leads me to such automated background checks with alert and potentially also suspension mechanisms. This will reduce – on top of better productivity figures - the chance of human failure in Load Control and increase the quality of output, thus the safety of the Load Control operations.
While it is important for airlines to innovate and improve the way they do their operations with regard to enhanced productivity, it is also paramount not to lose sight of safety and compliance standards as well as data accuracy. The implementation and utilization of automated background checks within their Weight and Balance solutions are consequently vital to achieve all safety, business and operational goals.