Underwriting Survey: Cargo Load out – Flight Simulator 1/4

Flight Simulator prior to load out survey in Denver, CO

Flight Simulator prior to load out survey in Denver, CO

This article outlines an oversize load cargo survey

which was made on behalf of Underwriters and our third party client.  Other posts will outline our clients (and our) liability, in additon to the road freight transport liability.

The cargo in question were three separate flight simulators with surveys spread out over several months.  A single team of four men (partially familiar with the equipment – as we found out) disassembled the units, prepared them for shipment, then re-assembled them at a different location, with one unit going to local storage where we surveyed the unloading.  The simulators are valued at several million dollars each and have a costly 6 point free floating hydraulic system which simulates the physical movement of an aircraft; the units weigh ~28,000 pounds total.

Our surveys were near  Denver International Airport at CAE, a flight simulator company that specializes in training pilots for nationally recognized airlines on several models of aircraft. We met with the moving team, fleet trucking operators (extremely professional – doesn’t happen everytime!) and crane operator Joey Lutz of Duffy Crane.

Immediately we noted that load out team appeared fatigued and found they had been working  21+ days in row, over 10 hours a day, far away from home.  Their work ethic was less than moderately productive and news came quickly that two of the four workers had no experience moving large cargo, or disassembling / reassembling flight simulators.  This gave a solid clue that we were in for a long day – 14 hours to be exact.  Much of that time was spent waiting on a truck re-order as the wrong height measurements were given when ordering the service, which caused the wrong height trailer to show without an over-height permit.

The first thing to remember on a cargo survey is that you’re responsible for making sure the load is secure and that  the permits are issued.  You might want to review our basic theories on a cargo survey to get a better idea of some other conditions to be met.

The load required two double drop freight trailers: a single 12′ wide load and a 14′ wide load.  Step decks on each truck were used for the pump unit and a separate lower section.  Additionally there were two 53′ vans for each unit to house the computer, hardware, and hydraulic arms array. All units were already disassembled and packaged but as Murphy’s law would have it things didn’t go so smoothly.

The first error

Section 1 Flight Sim Cargo Survey Tow Motor Pulling unit

Section 1 Flight Sim Cargo Survey Tow Motor Pulling unit

The crew tried pulling the upper section 1 with a tow motor to get it outside of the warehouse.

Common sense tells you there are no brakes on the transport wheels and if the tow motor driver slipped, the unit could get some speed and there would be no way to stop it.  Instead, we recommended the tow motor line up from the rear, facing the opposite direction for a “pull in opposite direction format”, while one man pulled the unit out with a come-a-long.  Slow and steady, the man could get out of the way if the unit came loose, rather than crash into a tow motor possibly injuring the driver.  The unit was then hoisted using a load yield bar (split) and hoisting straps rated well in excess of the 10-12 ton load weight, this was done as an “A frame” setup on both sides of the unit as above.

Both the previous section and the pump-house were eventually loaded on the truck – but not before we documented the improper handling of the pump and ensured the unit was wrapped properly for transit as shown here:

Improper handling of pump house

Improper handling of pump house

The load out team didn’t have a strong enough tow motor to pick up the pump house, and against our recommendation they rigged some straps around potentially fragile hydraulic motor plumbing to assist in the weight transfer.  We disagreed strongly but the team refused to cooperate.  We closely documented the conditions of this move and noted several photos in our report to Underwriters, which is about all you can do in a situation like this one.

Pump House being set on Truck

Pump House being set on Truck

The crew also intended only to cover the top 80% with a tarp, which would have exposed the entire unit to elements from the road (rain water), possibly causing the unit’s electrical areas to retain moisture, causing rust in elements that might fail.  The crew was very angry in our requiring them to fully shrink wrap the unit, but the truck driver thanked us as they hadn’t ordered enough tarps to cover the full load.  Surely he didn’t want to get on their bad side either (shown below being set on truck).

The upper sim section and pump house were tethered to the truck using Grade 70 1/2″ cargo tie down chains, rated to 11,300 W.L.L with 30,000 lb test chain ratchet binders.  They were tethered to the flat-bed resting four corners on the flight sim in an “x” format, which helped strenghen the load by giving a maximum of 45.2k lbs in strength.  The entire load was less than 10 tons (20k lbs) on this truck.  The top was then covered with a tarp and over 100 bungee cords to keep in it place.  The pump house was also stabilized in a similar fashion.

This was only the first quarter in loading the first simulator and it was already 2pm.  We all took a short break for lunch while the crew put the lid on the second oversize load of the first simulator.  Finally, after several attempts on a very windy spring afternoon, this load was finished, secured and ready to roll down to Phoenix as shown here:

Freight / Cargo on Board - Flight Simulator

Freight / Cargo on Board - Flight Simulator

A surveyor has much to remember and look out for when handling a load out of this size.  The days can become long and mistakes happen without warning.  Remember to stay alert and try to take good notes – they’ll come in handy when working on your report.  We’ll be posting the second section of this load out soon…so check back soon.

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