Envirotainer wins FAA approval for its cold-chain containers on US air freighters


Meanwhile, competitor CSafe Global broadens its containers' usability

The active-powered unit-load device (ULD) for shipping temperature-controlled products was pioneered by Envirotainer (Upplands Väsby, Sweden) years ago, but its use by air carriers has been limited to flights originating outside the US because it lacked FAA approval. Now, the company has been granted FAA approval for its RKN unit, putting it in direct competition with CSafe Global (Dayton, OH), whose RKN unit has been approved by both FAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency. The wider use of the Envirotainer ULD won’t be immediate; the company says that a technical-acceptance process will be carried out with airlines over the next 2-6 months. And the company says that it now has a “baseline” for quicker approval of its newer RAP unit, which is sized to accept up to four pallets of product.

But in a tit-for-tat action, CSafe recently announced that its RKN unit has been approved by FAA for use in both the upper and lower decks of air freighters. “In the last six years, we’ve seen an increase in conversions to narrow-body aircraft for freight service,” said Brian Kohr, CSafe CEO, in a statement. “After consulting with our key global partners, we sought FAA approval for use of the CSafe RKN on the upper deck.” That capability enables shippers to transport products originating from closer to the ship location and the receiving location, reducing road transport and speeding up deliveries.

RKN units are metal boxes sized to contain a pallet of product (which, if the entire trip is maintained under temperature-controlled conditions, obviates the need for cartons to have their own insulation and cooling). There are “passive” designs that employ dry ice as a coolant, and then the “active” units that contain batteries, compressors and refrigerants—essentially, an insulated box with a refrigerator inside. Power cables enable the active units to be recharged in transit by connecting to a vehicle’s electrical system, while passive units need to be recharged with dry ice on extended or delayed trips. An active unit can also provide heating to protect products harmed by sub-freezing conditions. Envirotainer and CSafe aren’t the only games in town: Luftansa Air Cargo has a unit of its own, and UPS has made use of the PharmaPort unit from Cool Containers LLC (Marietta, OH).

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