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Transatlantic A321 NEO

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Here's some pics I took whilst loading an Aer Lingus A321 NEO the other day. This aeroplane does a daily trip from Manchester to JFK which departs around lunchtime from the UK. It comes back to the UK to arrive at about 6:15 am:

In this pic we have it all zipped up and are getting ready to push it out:


This is taken from the rear bulk hold looking out past the railing of the belt loader, to the big high-loader which is at the main rear cargo door to load the ULDs:


This is the A321 NEO's forward cargo hold prior to loading the ULDs. The Airbus NEO has additional floor locks to hold the cargo cans in place, you can see one of these red additional locks sticking up on the right side of the picture. The rail in the middle of the hold has motorised rollers which can be used to move the ULDs to and from the doorway. The panels you can see on the back bulkhead of the hold are 'blowout panels' which are designed to blow off and relieve pressure evenly to prevent damage to the airframe in the event of a depressurisation incident:


This is the high loader positioned on the front hold. In this pic you can see the fuel pump truck is connected to the aeroplane and the guy in the high vis under the wing is alongside the open fuel panel, monitoring the flow of fuel into the aeroplane's tanks. In the inter-stand clearway, you can see some AKH ULDs (known as 'cans') which are ready to be loaded onto the aeroplane. On the loader's platform you can see a repositionable yellow bar, this has been put in this position by me to ensure cans guide properly through the hold entrance without hitting the sides of the fuselage (it's really heavy!). There are two other wider positions this bar can be locked into for loading other aeroplane types, such as widebody A330s and Boeing 777s. The transverse rubber roller you can see on the left of the upper platform is for shifting cans in small left and right increments to align them with the cargo entrance so they will slide into the rails properly:


This is the view of that stuff from inside the cargo hold:


And here it is from the driver position of the high loader:


These are the controls from the driving position. The controls can adjust the buffers at the front of the loading platform up and down to suit various aeroplane cargo hold entrances, raise and lower the front platform, lower and raise the hydraulic stabilisers, and of course put the thing in forward and reverse for driving it about:


these are the controls for loading operations. From the front to the back of the vehicle across both platforms, there are three sets of rollers to move cans about, either backwards, or forwards, left and right, and to rotate them if necessary:


Here is the in-hold roller controls mounted on the cargo door. there is a four-way joystick which is used to pull the cans into the aeroplane off the loader, or push them out when unloading, and to move them up and down the hold to the correct position for weight distribution according to a load plan:


Below is a load plan, this one is for an Airbus A330 going to Orlando, not this A321, but these things are always fairly similar in format. On this plan you can see there are two big PMC (cargo pallets) loaded right up to the bulkhead in the forward hold, then nothing in the other locations, indicated by an 'N' for 'nil fit'. Two more PMCs are loaded up to the bulkhead in the rear hold, then there are four AKE ULD bag cans up on one side of the rear hold, and a further three of these AKEs on the near side with nothing in the last slot near the door entrance. These are labelled with the pallet/can ID numbers, and the bag cans also say what they have in them (PRIO is priority bags, LOC is local bags for the destination airport, C indicates a can with the crew bags in). You can fit about 30 to 40 bags into one of those AKEs, but when they come out to the aeroplane, they have a card in a little pocket on them which has the number of bags in each can written on it so we can put them in appropriate locations to help with weight distribution for the trim of the aeroplane:

The A330 also has a rear bulk hold which late bags are loaded into manually. In the bottom left is a little picture of an A330 with numbered zones on it (1 to 5 from front to rear.) these are the different weight zones for balance, since in the front, both PMC pallets are in zone 2, theoretically it would not have mattered if had swapped those two pallets around and loaded them like that, but we in fact always follow the load plan exactly, because at the bottom right is a bit the loader has to sign to confirm they have loaded the aeroplane as per the plan. As you can see, there is typically more weight in the rear of the aeroplane than in the front; this is because with more weight in the rear, the aeroplane's horizontal stabiliser has to do less aerodynamic work to keep the tail down when the main wing generates lift, so this creates less aerodynamic drag and gives the aeroplane better fuel economy:


Here are some cans which have been loaded in and locked into position with the red stop locks. For those of you who like to be picky about GSX and stuff like that, ULDs are always loaded into the front with the canvas access flap facing forwards, and with it facing backwards in the rear holds. This is why the high loader can rotate cans:


Here's a pic from a camera angle you don't often see. The red arrows on the wing are to guide passengers if they are evacuating the aeroplane. you can just about make out a little yellow lug on the rear of the wing near the flap, this is the attachment ring for an inflatable raft when passengers are evacuating in an emergency water landing:





Edited by Chock
  • Like 5

Alan Bradbury

Check out my youtube flight sim videos: Here

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Sweet. I like those NEO's. Here in the USA you don't see them with baggage pods/ containers. The majority are free loaded bags I believe.

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