Load planners solve cargo puzzles to keep mission on track
By Tyler Hemstreet , Staff writer
/ Published September 14, 2007
MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Like giant puzzle pieces, each pallet of equipment, Humvee or aircraft part must be secured in an exact location of the cargo bay of the C-17 Globemaster III or any other transport aircraft so it can fly safely.
And the 62nd Aerial Port Squadron's load planners make it happen each day.
Packing his trusty tape measure, load planner Mr. Victor Vogliardo, 62nd APS, walks the floor of the 62nd APS warehouse double-checking the various pallets and rolling stock for exact measurements.
"There are a lot of dimensional figures we have to process," Mr. Vogliardo said.
Those figures include the height and curvature of the aircraft at several locations in the cargo bay as well as clearances of certain pieces of rolling stock that need to be wheeled onto the aircraft, he said.
The load planners use a giant binder packed with laminated pages to determine the correct guidelines to follow for shipping the equipment. Each and every item that can be transported on an aircraft has specific instructions.
"They have to have a signed letter from the Air Force detailing the loading procedures if the specific item isn't in the book," Mr. Vogliardo said.
After conferring with 62nd APS joint inspectors to make sure the cargo is packaged safely, the load planners generate a diagram to layout the placement of the objects in the aircraft, while also taking into account the exact weight of each piece.
Load planners also have to take into account if certain cargo is hazardous and needs to be separated from passengers, said Tech. Sgt. Kevin Bogle, 62nd APS.
Situating hazardous cargo in the rear of the aircraft also makes it easier to jettison if something happens to the load, he said.
The load planners then use a set formula to determine the center of gravity for the load so the airplane is balanced. While normal day-to-day operational loads are diagramed by pencil and paper on a layout sheet, a special computer program is used for contingency operations, Sergeant Bogle said.
Through it all, load planners have to also think about the ease of on-loading and off-loading. Paying attention to the intricacies of each aircraft is also key, he said.
"Some aircraft have limitations [such as the C-5 Galaxy] for weight in certain parts of the floor," Sergeant Bogle said. "You have to pay attention to those things or you can bust a hole in the floor if something is too heavy."
At the end of the day, the entire body of work completed by each load planner is finalized once the cargo is correctly matched up on the manifest with the right mission and is put on the right aircraft.
The meticulous tasks each load planner checks off his list on each load and the open lines of communication they maintain with the joint inspectors and the APS ramp services Airmen, the ensures the load is going to its destination safe and sound.