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Fixed wing

The most common type of aircraft – any airborne vessel with wings that requires horizontal take-off and landing space.

Rotor wing

Helicopters of any configuration that have top mounted rotors to provide vertical lift, and have vertical take-off and landing capability.

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)

Any authority that maintains legal jurisdiction over the airspace above any country. Aircraft operating within a country or flying over a country (overflight clearance) must make arrangements through CAAs, registering flight plans and obtaining proper clearances.

International Aviation and Transportation Administration (IATA)

An international governing body that sets safety regulations on commercial flight. Any aircraft commercially operating between two different countries that mutually recognize IATA standards is legally obliged to follow IATA regulations.

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)A specialized UN agency that supports the development of mutually recognized civil aviation standards among UN member states, including air safety regulations.

Tech Stop

Used to describe a situation when an aircraft must be on the ground for technical reasons. Usually tech stops refer to refuelling, but they can also be for unscheduled maintenance. Sometimes referred to as “going technical.”


Where the “permanent” home of the aircraft is, usually where the aircraft is originally licensed, and near the owner and operator. Domicile location are also frequently where aircraft receive routine maintenance as well, but not always.


Moving an aircraft from one location to another location in anticipation of another future need.

Ground Support Equipment

Any equipment involving the offloading or moving of cargo around an airport or landing strip, in lead up to loading or offloading cargo and people. Ground handling crews can be employees of governments, or sub contracted service providers.

Airside Any part of an airport beyond a secure checkpoint usually associated with loading/offloading, service operations and takeoff/landing. Airside operations occur within close proximity to working aircraft. 

Cube/Weigh Out

The act of reaching the maximum limitations to a specific airframe, either by reaching its maximum volume (cube out) or its maximum weight (weigh out).

Flight Hours

Defined as the specified hours air craft, pilot or crew are allowed to operate for. Physical air craft may only be able to operate for a maximum number of hours in any week or month period, while pilots and crew can only operate for a maximum number of hours per day/week before mandated “crew rest.”


All the special considerations surrounding aircraft loading, such as :

  • Deck cargo – cargo loaded onto the main deck/body of an aircraft
  • Belly load – cargo loaded unto the under deck/belly of an aircraft
  • Nose load – cargo loaded into the front compartment of an aircraft
  • Tail load – cargo loaded into the rear compartment/are past the real wheel based of an aircraft
  • Door dimensions – dimensions to all points of entrance to an airframe that define maximum size
  • Load balance - loading cargo onto a plane in a way that maximizes safety and energy
  • Loadmaster – the duly certified person ultimately responsible for determining how and what gets loaded onto a plane

loading specifications and safety concerns. 

Dangerous Goods (DG)

Any cargo that might post a threat to aircraft while in transit or loading/offloading. DG is universal to all forms of transport, but is especially important to air aviation. Definitions, handling and labelling standards for DG are outlined in the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulation (DGR).

Sling Loading

The act of transporting cargo on the outside of a rotor wing aircraft using a net or cable of some kind, with cargo hanging below the aircraft. Sling loading requires special equipment and specially trained pilot and crew, and can only be used in some ideal circumstances.


Air transport has become so common in the modern world that shippers frequently take key important factors for granted, or overlook them when planning and utilizing aviation for cargo. Understanding some of these unique needs will help when planning large international shipments, but will also help understanding in-country and response specific aviation needs as well.

Aircraft Loading and Stowage

Aircraft have specialty terminology  when it comes to loading.  Cargo can be loaded into specially defined sections of an aircraft including:

  • Deck Cargo – cargo loaded onto the main deck/body of an aircraft.
  • Belly Load – cargo loaded unto the under deck/belly of an aircraft.
  • Nose Load – cargo loaded into the front compartment of an aircraft.
  • Tail Load – cargo loaded into the rear compartment/are past the real wheel based of an aircraft.

While loading and storing cargo onto an aircraft, there are some specific physical limitations to what and how items can be loaded:

Cargo Hold - The cargo hold - or sometimes just referred to as a "hold" - is any space on an aircraft where cargo is stored and transported, including any of compartments on an aircraft. Holds of each aircraft have specific dimensions, including height, depth, width, and shaped curvature of the airframe itself. These dimensions will limit what and how objects are loaded.

Door Dimensions -  Doors are any/all points where cargo can enter or leave an aircraft. Door dimensions have maximum sizes specific to the aircraft, and ultimately limit what can be loaded. Even the hold is large enough to store a certain object, it may not be able to fit through the doors of the aircraft. Planners and loaders should understand this before trying to load an aircraft.

Load Balance - Cargo loaded onto a plane must be properly balanced.  A balanced cargo load maximizes safety and energy efficiency, while an unbalanced load can lead to serious safety risks.

At any time, when cargo is being loaded onto an aircraft, there will be an appointed loadmaster. A loadmaster may be a regular crew member, the pilot, or in the case of large commercial operations, specially certified persons who work only in cargo loading. In any situation, the loadmaster is the person ultimately responsible for determining how and what gets loaded onto a plane

Weight as a Limiting Factor