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Airbus Cargo Loading Systems


Airbus DS Airborne Solutions GmbH  (formerly Reinmetall Defence Electronics) located in Germany has developed and produced all the electronic controls for the Airbus wide-body cargo loading systems.  These are the aircraft systems that move containers and pallets to their right locations in the forward and aft cargo holds and then move them back out at their destination.  The cargo holds are on the lower deck of the aircraft located below the passenger cabin. 

Because of its straightforward operating logic and its extreme reliability, the Airbus systems have gained customer acclaim world-wide, and it must have been the logical choice for Airbus when equipping the A380. 

It works like this:  

A loader will move a container into the aircraft through one of the large cargo doors.  Just inside the door is a ball mat, a device in the floor of the cargo hold that will pull the container all the way in and then start it on its way to the correct location where it will be locked in place.  The container is moved forwards or backwards by motorized rollers in the floor, the so-called PDUs (Power Drive Units).  

Airbus Cargo Controls

The Airbus system controls the engagement of the PDUs - when and in which direction the roller should turn. There are several generations of these systems:

  • The original automatic system used on A300 B2 and B4 models.
  • A semi-automatic system for the lower deck on F (cargo) versions of the A300 and A310.
  • A semi-automatic system for the A330/A340 200 and 300 models.
  • The Cargo Conveyance System installed in the A340-500 and -600.
  • The system on the new A380 which will be very similar to the latest A340 installation. 
EAI Control Bench

The Cargo Conveyance system for each of the two cargo compartments consists of:

  • A Compartment Control Box that controls the power distribution (115/208VAC at 400Hz and the 28VDC) and also controls the Sector Control Boxes.
  • Several Sector Control Boxes that control the PDUs in a portion of the cargo hold.
  • An Outside Control Panel that is accessed from the outside of the aircraft and has a multi-directional joystick for controlling the movement of a container on and off the ball mat area.
  • An Inside Control Panel which is a joystick mounted in the ceiling of the cargo hold, just inside the door, that controls the movement of a container forwards or backwards in the cargo hold.  
  • A Maintenance Display Unit that indicates if maintenance is required.
  • Two types of PDUs: a self-erecting type used in the ball mat area and a spring-lift version used elsewhere in the cargo compartments.

All these units are "smart" - they know and record what is going on, so when they are brought in for service, the diagnostic equipment at Erie Aviation can determine its exact history.

The diagnostic equipment is essential for repairing these systems.  There is one test bench in Singabore to support Asian markets, one at Airbus DS Airborne Solutions GmbH, and one here at Erie Aviation for the Americas.  The bench includes a complete system where a customer unit - for instance a Sector Control Box - can be plugged in and operated as if it were in the aircraft.  That way problems are quickly identified and the units are comprehensively tested, repaired, certified, and returned to the customer.

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