Do all commercial cargo aviation companies use pressurised planes?

The first question that arises is whether a commercial cargo plane is pressurised. If asked in one word, it’s yes. Most commercial air freighters predominantly use pressurised fleets. The majority of cargo that is shipped requires temperature and pressure controls. The temperature of the cargo is controlled via the pressurisation system. However, it depends on the aircraft and the requirements of the cargo (living animals, computer equipment, packaged food, biomedical supplies, perishable goods, etc.) that demand a pressurised cabin. Almost all cargo comes in wrapping, packaging, containers, bottles, etc. and without pressurisation control, the cargo will likely get damaged.

Apart from the majority, freights are also shipped to smaller stations through smaller planes that do not fly above 10,000 feet. Hence, not all cargo will be found shipped in pressurised planes. Commercial aeroplanes, both freight and passenger do not fly at a particular altitude without the support of pressurisation. For commercial aircraft, pressurisation provides shipping comfort, temperature control, and structural support of the consignments. Aircraft are designed to take off and land at internal air pressurisation that is greater than outside atmospheric pressure to retain structural support.

What is the difference between pressurised and non-pressurised aircraft?

  • Pressurised aircraft- There is pressure inside the fuselage of a pressurised aircraft. The cabin's air maintains a particular pressure to protect the temperature-controlled cargo. The pressure can be decreased if required.
  • Unpressurised aircraft- The unpressurised aircraft cannot fly very high. There is no pressure inside the fuselage, and usually, general cargo is carried in such aircraft

Why do aircraft use cabin pressurization?

Commercial aircraft perform their best at high altitudes and this enables the fleets to enhance fuel consumption efficiency and avoid potential turbulence factors. However, for humans, the situation is exactly the opposite. The higher people shift to, the less oxygen there is available for them to breathe in. This happens because air density decreases with altitude, which contradicts human anatomy. Also, one will freeze rather quickly at such an altitude, as the ambient temperature is around -50 degrees Celsius. All the liquid in the packaged cargo will also freeze.

Moreover, at any height greater than 10,000 ft., humans and animals that are not acclimatised will become hypoxic, which is not receiving sufficient oxygen for breathing from the ambient air. There are tables, like the Time of Useful Consciousness (TUC) which varies at various altitudes. Temperature-sensitive cargo may get damaged by both the pressurisation alteration and the temperature fluctuations.

Cargo planes pump pressurised air into their fleets and the air that goes into an aircraft's cabin, via this process, is called conditioned air. Once the cabin attains the ideal pressure level, the aircraft will restrict the cabin air exhaust to control the cabin pressure and maintain it at a constant level throughout the flight. In a nutshell, cabin pressurisation is a process where conditioned air is pumped into and then, out of the aircraft’s cabin. The inside air of the cabin needs to be refreshed nonstop to enhance the entire cargo flight to become more hassle-free.

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