The U.S.-based, family owned and operated ULD manufacturer, Satco, Inc, has done just that. It recently inaugurated a premiere in the aviation industry: its very own Air Cargo Safety Research Center in Miami Township, Ohio, costing a USD 10 million.
Not that USD 10 million is that much, if you consider the damage a fire can cause to an aircraft, let alone life. Speed is of the essence when a fire breaks out on board: According to a UK CAA report made back in 2002, the average time available to the crew to land the plane from the moment a fire is discovered on board, is 17 minutes, whereby the fire can go out of control within 8-10 minutes. Those are the statistics from the days where Lithium Battery transport was not quite a prevalent as it is today – both declared and, worse, undeclared. The risk of fire in today’s aviation industry has and is growing, which is why many a ULD manufacturer has concentrated on designing and refining Fire Resistant Containers. A ULD capable of containing fires when it occurs, is a necessary measure in ensure the risk to the aircraft is minimized.
In-house testing facility
Yet, only one ULD manufacturer has its own fire safety test facility, and that is Satco, Inc. Mike Proctor, President and CEO of Satco, explained: “Our goal has always been to provide world-class, safe products that airlines, cargo, and freight companies can trust to protect their employees, assets and the general public. This new facility houses state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment and increases our testing capabilities, providing the space we need to continue pushing innovation to move the industry forward.” The safety of air cargo transportation is ensured by the rigorous testing of all unit load devices in every way, including real fire.
Build, burn, and redesign
Lithium Batteries are an ever-growing concern, and the near misses or fires on ground are shocking, every time. Which is why Satco new ARC facility is so focused on promoting safe fire testing its ‘burn lab’. Satco is unique in that it is “the only ULD manufacturer with its own fire safety test facility, which is one of only a handful of testing facilities in the country”, the press release underlines. The burn lab measures 15 meters by 18 meters, and has an 11-meter-high ceiling. “During a test, a controlled fire is set inside a ULD within the lab. The facility is monitored by 12 thermal imaging and HD video cameras and multiple thermal sensors to understand how a ULD is impacted by a fire during a test. The tests run for a minimum of six hours and temperatures can reach 760+°C,” the release details.
No need for the waiting game
“This facility gives us even more control over the safety of our products,” Michael Howell, Senior Vice President of Operations and Maintenance Services at Satco, stated. “We don’t have to wait in line at other testing facilities because we have our own. We are able to run tests whenever we need to and can quickly evaluate our products and get them to market faster.”
Mike Proctor added: “At the end of the day, the Satco ARC facility allows us to ensure we are manufacturing the safest ULDs on the market. It also gives us a resource to anticipate new potential fire hazards in flight and plan for them. We can’t just wait for a catastrophe to happen to advance the industry; we have to be proactive.”
The facility is well-placed to serve a number of large, active cargo airports, and to thus engage with clients and those looking to become customers. Satco ARC is not only concerned with providing excellence, but also creating jobs in the region. The company is on the lookout for 120 news staff – among them engineers, IT specialists, or software developers.
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