Maximum take-off weight exceeded following cargo loading irregularity

Typical A330-300 cargo hold

An Airbus A330 departed Sydney with the aircraft’s maximum take-off weight exceeded by 494 kg following a loading irregularity, an ATSB investigation details.

On 17 December 2017, a Qantas A330-300 was being loaded with freight in preparation for an international passenger flight from Sydney to Beijing, China. After landing in Beijing, the airline’s freight agent identified that the aircraft had been loaded incorrectly. As a result, the aircraft had departed Sydney 875 kg above the weight listed in the revised load sheet, and 494 kg above the aircraft’s maximum take-off weight.

The ATSB found that an operational requirement for additional holding fuel resulted in the operating flight crew issuing a revised load instruction to carry less cargo. However, this instruction was not actioned and led to a 2,005 kg pallet of freight remaining on board the aircraft, instead of being replaced with a lighter unit weighing 1,130 kg.

The required cargo variation was not actioned by the load supervisor, as electronic messages associated with the revised loading instruction were acknowledged without being correctly interpreted. That action was probably influenced by the supervisor’s experience that load changes were accompanied by verbal advice, which did not occur on this occasion.

The ATSB’s investigation into the incident highlights the importance of communication between all parties responsible for aircraft loading. Planning and loading of freight in the high-capacity passenger sector is often conducted under significant time pressure, where delays can lead to scheduling issues.

Effective communication between all parties responsible for aircraft loading can assist in reducing errors, the investigation notes.

As a result of this, and other freight loading occurrences, Qantas have introduced handheld scanning devices that automate much of the freight confirmation and mobile communication process using printed barcode and scanning technology. The scanners were implemented at most domestic and international Qantas ports by June 2019.

You can find here the investigation report AO-2018-003: Aircraft loading-related occurrence involving Airbus A330-303, VH-QPD, Sydney Airport, NSW, on 17 December 2017

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