In a drive to improve safety by developing hi-tech fire resistant containers, UPS found it had also created much lighter containers, saving significant amounts of fuel. Similar products are now being deployed by other airlines.
Fire resistant container research began as a safety enhancement at UPS. These containers include panelling made from a plastic composite material called MACROLite, which is reinforced with fibre and similar to the material used in bulletproof vests. This project began as an in-flight safety enhancement and resulted in a stronger, more efficient air container.
Along with the fire resistant properties, the panels are more durable and lighter-weight than current polycarbonate designs. Testing revealed that adding stress to the MACROLite material strengthens rather than weakens it. While supporting the safety strategy for UPS, the new containers also resulted in fuel savings of over 1,287,040 litres and the avoidance of 3,200 tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2014.
All the cargo networks of LATAM Airlines Group have rolled out similar cargo and luggage containers made of high-strength and low-weight Kevlar material that is five times stronger than steel and a third lighter. These containers have cut maintenance time, allowed the airlines to carry more cargo and, importantly, have reduced fuel use and CO2 emissions – 3,000 tonnes avoided annually.
Finnair has also benefited from purchasing the Nordisk containers as part of their ‘weight watchers’ programme, where the airline expects to save around 800,000 kilograms in fuel and more than 2,500 tonnes of CO2 annually.