## Quiz: How loaded do US Air Force transport aircraft operate?

Let me share with you one funny quiz I did for some colleagues at the office:

On average, how loaded do US Air Force transport aircraft, C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster, operate? (as a percentage of their maximum payload capacity: let’s take the figures reported by the US Air Force, ~16.5 tonnes for the C-130 -“maximum normal payload”-and 77.5 tonnes for the C-17)

Before continuing reading below, take your chance in the poll below, where I offer 4 possible responses: 3 from my colleagues’ responses to the quiz plus the correct one:

Background. Before posing the quiz to my colleagues we were commenting on a piece of news of an Antonov 124 which had landed in Spain to load some equipment weighing 1,000 kg. The An-124 reported payload capacity is 150 metric tonnes. For those not being number-crunchers: that means using the one of the biggest cargo aircraft to load it up to 0.7% of its capacity.

After having read this last paragraph you may have changed your opinion as to which is the correct answer to the quiz.

I based the correct result on a news release from the US Air Force dating from the beginning of 2007. At that time I was working in Airbus Military strategy where I would like to pick up any number related to aircraft and play with it (the hobby has stayed). That release offered figures US Central Command air transport operations, including operations Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Iraqi Freedom. Find the results from that short number play:

US Air Force average loads (in tonnes) for C-130 and C-17 during 2005 and 2006.

If you do the math, you will immediately get the right answer: C-130 Hercules, 22% and C-17 Globemaster, 17%.

“What a waste of resources!” you may think. A former senior colleague pointed to that result: “You buy a Mercedes to travel with the family and baggage, then on a Sunday when having to go out to get some bread or any week day when you go alone to work… when you get to the garage and find a Mercedes… Guess which car you take?”

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## Learning while investing

During last days I had some fun learning different terms used in the shipping industry while investigating some possible investments. Let me share some of these examples:

Panamax”: this is a term for the size limits for ships traveling through the Panama Canal.

“Panamax is determined principally by the dimensions of the canal’s lock chambers, each of which is 110 ft (33.53 m) wide by 1,050 ft (320.04 m) long, and 85 ft (25.91 m) deep. The usable length of each lock chamber is 1,000 ft (304.8 m). The available water depth in the lock chambers varies, but the shallowest depth is at the south sill of the Pedro Miguel Locks and is 41.2 ft (12.56 m) at a Miraflores Lake level of 54 ft 6 in (16.61 m). The height of the Bridge of the Americas at Balboa is the limiting factor on a vessel’s overall height.”

(Did you ever have such an idea of the size of the Panama Canal?)

The two ships seen here seem almost to be touching the walls of the Miraflores Locks.

The same applies to the term “Suezmax”.

Another curious term is “Capesize“… which meaning by now you may already guess: “Capesize ships are cargo ships originally too large to transit the Suez Canal (i.e., larger than both Panamax and Suezmax vessels). To travel between oceans, such vessels used to have to pass either the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn. [I especially liked this last clarification] In effect Capesize reads as “unlimited”.” (Sure, once you have to travel around in the open ocean… you put the limit).

Lastly, “Deadweight tonnage”: this is “the sum of the weights of cargo, fuel, fresh water, ballast water, provisions, passengers, and crew.” It is curious that in the shipping industry this is also called “payload” according to the Wikipedia, while in the air cargo industry we refer by payload to just the weight of cargo / passengers…