Dangerous Goods can be transported safely by air provided that certain general principles are adopted and strictly followed.
Regulation of dangerous goods
The broad principles governing international transport of dangerous goods by air are stated in Annex 18 (The Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air) to the Convention on International Civil Aviation to which the Czech Republic is a signatory. ICAO Doc 9284 Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air amplify the fundamental provisions of Annex 18 and contain all the detailed instructions necessary for the safe transport of dangerous goods by air.
Proper classification of dangerous goods
Dangerous Goods are divided into nine classes and some classes are subdivided to divisions according to the hazard they present. ICAO Technical Instructions include a comprehensive list of individual articles and substances where is specified United Nations (UN) number, proper shipping name and indicated class and/or division into which the commodity falls, its acceptability for air transport and under what conditions. ICAO Technical Instructions as well include detailed provisions concerning classification of dangerous goods.
Forbidden dangerous goods are never transported by air
Some dangerous goods have been identified as being too dangerous to be carried on any aircraft under any circumstances. Some dangerous goods are forbidden under normal circumstances but may be carried with specific approval from the States concerned. Some dangerous goods are restricted to carriage by cargo aircraft only, provided that required conditions are met, many dangerous goods items can be safely carried on passenger aircraft as well.
Use of packaging in compliance with stated specifications, observing quantity limitations
Packaging is an essential component in the safe transport of dangerous goods by air. ICAO Technical Instructions state general packing requirements and packing instructions. These together ensure that the safety of dangerous goods carried by air is assured by their packagings and the way in which they are packed. The packing instructions mostly use UN packagings (performance-tested specification packagings), which in some cases are not required, as in a case when dangerous goods are shipped in Limited Quantities under the provisions of the Limited Quantity “Y” Packing Instructions. Packing Instructions usually provide wide choice of combination (consisting of inner and outer packaging) and single packagings. The quantity which is allowed to be put into an inner packaging and a complete package is strictly controlled.
Marking and labelling
Packages containing dangerous goods have to be marked in the prescribed manner with essential information, including the proper shipping name and UN number and labelled by hazard and handling labels.
Properly executed dangerous goods transport document
When a shipper is offering a consignment with dangerous goods to the airlines, he is responsible for providing all applicable information on a prescribed form – Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods. The shipper must ensure, that the form is filled in accurate manner, is properly signed and that dangerous goods consignment has been prepared in accordance with all applicable Dangerous Goods Regulations.
Duly filled and presented Shipper´s Declaration for Dangerous Goods ensures that all parties involved in the transportation chain know what type of dangerous goods they are transporting, how to properly load and handle them and to be prepared in the unlikely event an incident or accident occurs either in-flight or on the ground.
Proper handling and loading into the aircraft
ICAO Technical Instructions state requirements for dangerous goods acceptance procedures, as well as storage and loading of dangerous goods.
The pilot-in-command is informed about dangerous goods on board
Dangerous goods consignment has to be included in the form „Notification to Captain“ (NOTOC), which ensures that the pilot-in-command is aware of the dangerous goods loaded to the aircraft, where they are located in the aircraft and the emergency response actions to be taken in the event of an emergency.
Recognition of undeclared dangerous goods
Baggage and cargo presented for air transport may contain articles and substances that are not permitted to be transported by air, because of the hazards they present and thus being capable endanger the safety of air transport. Therefore, safety measures have to be applied for cargo as well as for baggage and all personnel involved in the process of air transport have to check for possible hidden dangerous goods.
Besides that, passengers have to be provided with information regarding “hidden dangerous goods” in order to assist them in recognising dangerous goods, which they are not permitted to carry on the person, or in their baggage. Similar information must also be provided to the persons who consign cargo.
Training is essential aid to achieving an understanding of the philosophy and competency in application of the requirements of ICAO Technical Instructions. All personnel performing any function in the air transport of dangerous goods have to receive and successfully complete appropriate training with the aim to ensure that personnel are competent to perform any function for which they are responsible.
Accident and incident investigation
Dangerous goods incidents and accidents have to be reported in order that investigation carried out by the relevant authority can establish the cause and corrective actions can be taken to prevent a recurrence.