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ATA Specification 300 and Service Life Testing

ATA Specification 300 for shipping case design.
ATA rated flight case.

“ATA Specification 300: Specification for Packaging of Aircraft Supplies” helps airlines manage the cost of shipping delicate and high-value items. It spells out how containers and flight cases should be constructed to protect contents against damage while minimizing weight and volume. It addresses how containers are to be marked and how they should be designed to facilitate loading and unloading. ATA Specification 300 even covers security features to reveal unauthorized access. The goal is, reducing the cost of air transport.

Also to minimize cost, the specification relates requirements to intended service life. Thus, a container intended for only a single use doesn’t need to be as robust as one intended for 10 or 100 round-trips. Specification 300 calls out these service lives as Category III, II and I respectively.


Containers sold by Sierra Cases are designed to meet the demanding requirements of Category I. This entails passing a series of drop tests replicating the very worst containers are likely to suffer in the field. These tests are performed repeatedly on case corners, edges and faces from specified heights.

For example, if a case measures less than 36 inches in any direction and has a gross weight under 50 pounds, to meet Category I it has to survive:

•      40 cornerwise drops from 36 inches
•      80 edgewise drops from 36 inches
•      160 face drops from 30 inches

Drop heights decrease for larger and heavier cases.

Impact testing

Sometimes a container is too bulky or heavy for drop-testing. In this situation, the specification allows impact testing as an alternative.

Both edges and corners are subjected to a series of impacts of progressively higher velocities. Edges are expected to endure 96 impacts. Corners have to survive a total of 128 impacts up to 12 feet per second.

Longevity assured

Cases used to ship delicate and high-value goods lead a hard life. ATA Specification 300 guides manufacturers in designing cases to ensure they will survive a minimum number of uses. Those meeting the demanding requirements of Category I will be good for at least 100 round-trips.

To learn more, read Understanding ATA Specifications.

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