Cargo is considered to be one of the most fascinating departments of the aviation industry.  Cargo department is a field where the employees are challenged everyday facing new situations every day. Antonov An-225 Mriya is the largest air cargo plane in the world and can take up to 640 tons of weight. This flight has current world record for a single-item air-lifted payload for carrying a gas power station generator weighing 418,834 pounds. It also once air-lifted payload 559,577 pounds, creating another world record for the same. Currently top 20 cargo carriers according to AW are as following
1.     FedEx
2.     UPS Airlines
3.     Korean Air
4.     Emirates
5.     Cathay Pacific Airways
6.     United Airlines
7.     China Airlines
8.     Singapore Airlines
9.     China Eastern Airlines
10.                        Air China
11.                        China Southern Airlines
12.                        Lufthansa
13.                        Japan Airlines
14.                        All Nippon Airways
15.                        EVA Air 
16.                        Asiana Airlines
17.                        Cargo lux 
18.                        Thai Airways
19.                        LAN Airlines
20.                        British Airways
In 2010, plane maker Boeing confirmed that cargo-only aircrafts or freighters carry almost 60 percent of the global airfreight shipments, whereas the passenger planes take up the other 40 percent in their bellies. 
Dangerous goods (HAZMAT) are those goods which can cause harm or damage to the aircraft, individual, security or to the surroundings. Dangerous goods are of utmost importance and if not taken care of them then it can result into a big accident. Few examples of dangerous goods are human remains (HUM), hatching eggs (HEG), perishable goods (PER), dry ice (ICE) and etc.

Through this article we would understand the handling and shipment of the dangerous good; perishable flowers (PEF). It is a temperature sensitive good. An essential reference guide for all the parties who are involved in the packaging and handling of temperature sensitive goods is Perishable Cargo Regulations manual which is endorsed by the IATA Live Animals and Perishables Board (LAPB). Flower freight is highly based on volume rather than weight.
Since past 30 years we have observed that the demand for perishable flowers from around the globe has increased. These flowers are either sold in bunches or in the form of attractive bouquets. It has been observed that the demand of such product is maximum in the areas of North America, Japan and EU. Equal volumes of fruit, flower and vegetables are transported from South America to Europe. Flowers also dominate the trade line originating from south and Central America to North America. Europe flies in considerably more perishables from Africa mostly flowers. Lufthansa Cargo’s aircraft were filled with roses, handling 800 tonnes of the delicate flowers this year, connecting flower-growing countries with its Frankfurt hub many times a week. LATAM Cargo was also flying two million fresh flowers on each flight during a four week period leading up to Valentine’s Day, with more than 163 freighters departing Ecuador and Colombia between 17 January and 7 February. Traffic between Bogota and Miami rose to 2,670 tonnes per week compared to the usual 360 tonnes, and Quito – Miami rose from 450 tonnes to 3,740 tonnes.
To facilitate the increased demand many developing nations started producing and exporting fresh flowers. The mode of transportation totally depends on the nature of the product. Here for the transportation of freshly cut flowers, air transportation is given preference over any other form of transportation because of the fact of high perishable rate of freshly cut flowers. The most important factor while handling a perishable flower shipment is the temperature. Some flowers require the temperature between 0-2 degree Celsius where as there are some plants like ginger, birds of flower and tropical orchids type of flowers which are chilling sensitive and need a temperature of 8 degree Celsius. According to the flower the temperature is maintained while packing and as well in the cargo compartment.
It is very important to maintain the required temperature before packing of the flowers. The levels of distributions are the places where maximum effort is spent. Flowers also have the tendency of overheating themselves if the same temperature is not maintained. This would eventually lead in damaging of the shipment. To avoid the damaging of the shipment it is preferred that the flowers are packed in a cold storage area to keep them in the best quality. The refrigeration system of those areas are specially designed carefully and sized for forced air- cooling.  
Before the flowers are packed, they have to go through a process
called pulsing. It is a process to increase the shelf life of the flowers by adding a special solution to them. It is used on flowers which are ethylene- sensitive in nature for e.g. carnations. It also helps to prevent the situation of photosynthesis that is when the leaf starts to turn yellow. To pack freshly cut flowers, the containers are available in different shapes but mostly such containers are long and flat. These containers have a full telescoping design which means that the top completely overlap the bottom part. This design helps in reduction of physical damage of the flowers by limiting the depth of the container. The flowers head could be placed on both the ends of the container. This technique of packing helps in better utilization of space. Most of the times in this kind of placement of the flowers, to prevent it from getting injured or damaged layers of newspaper is used. Although it is considered that if only the head of the flower is protected by the newspaper then it results in efficient cooling once the packing is done.
In many flower producing countries the packers use one or more cleats to avoid any longitudinal slip. Cleats are basically wood pieces covered with foam or newspaper to place over the product, pushed down and stapled into each side of the box. Packers also use padded metal straps, high density polyethylene blocks, and cardboard tubes as cleats. For effective cooling it is suggested that the head of the flower should be placed 5-10 cm away from the end of the box. This will also eliminate the danger of bruising of petals while the boxes are shifted. Another technique to ensure the safety of the flowers is an elastic wrap which is anchored in the base of the box. Once the packing is done it is stretched over the steams of the flowers.
Some flowers blend themselves to a certain type of packaging where the stem bases of some bunches are placed against the ends of the box. Remaining flowers are placed as usual that is 5-8 cm away from the end of the box. It gets very much evident when all the flowers are well secured as they form a conical shape of typical bunches. To prevent geotropic curvature on flowers like gladioli and snapdragons which eventually reduces their acceptability, they are packed in vertical hampers. For daisies upright storage is needed which is served by cubic hampers.
The flower heads are individually protected for specialty flowers like orchid, ginger and bird of paradise to avoid friction during transportation. Either paper or polyethylene sleeves could be used to cover the heads. To further reduce the friction and damage cushioning material like shredded paper, wood/paper wool may be put between the packed flowers.
The captain is informed about the shipment before boarding the plane through NoToC (Note To Captain). Once the Captain knows about this shipment in his Aircraft, he sets the temperature of the compartment in which they are loaded in order to maintain the required temperature levels. The cargo department also need to take care of the compatibility groups while loading a shipment. For e.g. when loading a shipment of perishable flowers we cannot load hatching eggs (HEG) along with it. The sole reason being that the temperature required by hatching egg is comparatively high or warm than the temperature needed by perishable flowers (PEF). Perishable flowers also cannot be loaded along with dry ice as dry ice have the tendency to kill all the oxygen in the room and if perishable flowers are placed next dry ice then it would lead in killing of the plants and eventually damaging the shipment.
The four enemies that cargo department fights while handling the shipment of fresh cut flowers are temperature, disease, extended shipping duration and ethylene exposure. If these factors are not kept in mind and taken care of then that will lead to the damage of the shipment or degrade in the quality of the product. All the above mentioned factors are inter related to one another. For example, packing flowering potted plants in a warm greenhouse or in a hot packing area then placing the box into a cooler immediately  will result in condensation on the flowers and leaves, thus providing ideal conditions for Botrytis, Powdery mildew or other diseases. Therefore it becomes very important for the cargo department to take the preventive measure to ensure the best quality product is delivered to the receiver.

Srishti Malkotia  [BBA Aviation] 
Manager Aviation 
AirCrews Aviation Pvt Ltd
Srishti Malkotia @Social Media  -


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