IATA and FAA Release Guidance to Carry Cargo on Passenger Aircraft During COVID-19 Emergency

Posted on 4/20/2020 by Roger Marks

On April 17 the International Air Transport Association (IATA) released guidance pertaining to the use of passenger aircraft to safely transport cargo and/or mail during the COVID-19 global health crisis.

Given the disruption to normal operators’ business during this time, some carriers are evaluating options to re-configure passenger aircraft to carry cargo—either by loading goods on passenger seats or by removing seats to accommodate cargo.

Options to Transport Goods Aboard Passenger Aircraft

FAA released Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) 20008 on April 15 to provide information and recommendations to operators who hold certificates to conduct operations under 14 CFR Part 121. 

With respect to hazardous materials/dangerous goods, FAA states that operators should: 
  • Follow the current approved hazardous materials program authorized via OpSpec A055. 
  • Contact the appropriate FAA aviation safety inspector to update the hazardous materials program when they wish to use any new processes relating to the transport of hazardous materials. Updates may also include new information or descriptions of hazmat training programs. 
  • Prevent hazardous materials packages from being inadvertently loaded into the passenger cabin. 
The new IATA guidance outlines options for carrying humanitarian supplies, medicines, and general cargo aboard a re-purposed passenger aircraft. It also addresses air transport of dangerous goods.

In short, dangerous goods are not permitted in the following areas:
  • Overhead bins/coat cupboards,
  • Under seats,
  • On the seats, or
  • On the cabin floor with seats removed
Dangerous goods (and Cargo Aircraft Only dangerous goods) can be carried in cargo compartments only, and only when the operator holds a CAA approval to carry dangerous goods as cargo. Cargo Aircraft Only dangerous goods must be loaded into a Class C cargo compartment and may not be transported when passengers are on the aircraft.

IATA’s Safety Risk Assessment Recommendations

In order to undertake this effort, IATA says, “a comprehensive safety risk assessment shall be performed involving all the relevant operations departments (i.e., ground, cargo, cabin, flight, engineering).”

Section 3 of the guidance document outlines general recommendations for performing a risk assessment, as well as examples of hazards that operators should prepare for. This section includes a table that details possible events, hazards, consequences, and controls that should be considered when performing the risk assessment, along with a Risk Rating for the possible safety issues that may arise.

For more details, see IATA's full guidance document here. 

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To train at your own pace, try these self-paced online courses for hazmat shippers:

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Tags: cargo aircraft, dangerous goods, hazmat shipping, IATA DGR

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