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The 463L cargo system encompasses all phases of cargo loading including materials-handling equipment, cargo-loading platforms, restraint equipment, and in-aircraft systems. The 463L system is the Air Force standard for moving concentrated cargo.


The dual-rail system is installed in all airlift or 463L-capable military aircraft. This system consists of rows of rollers that allow the palletized cargo to easily move into the aircraft. Many of these rollers are stowable to convert the cargo deck to a flat, clear loading surface for wheeled cargo. The side rails guide the pallets into the aircraft and provide lateral and vertical restraint. These rails are equipped with detent locks that hold the pallet securely in place once inside the aircraft. These locks also prevent the forward and aft movement of pallets during flight.


*The 463L pallet (Figure D-1) is made of corrosion-resistant aluminum with a soft wood or fiberglass core and is framed on all sides by aluminum rails. The rails have 22 tie-down rings attached with 6 rings on each long side and 5 rings on each short side. Each ring has a 7,500-pound restraint capacity. The rails also have indents (notches) that accept the detent locks located on numerous types of materials-handling equipment and on all airlift-capable aircraft. The overall dimensions of the 463L pallet are 88 inches long by 108 inches wide by 2 1/4 inches thick. However, the usable dimensions of the upper surface are 84 inches wide by 104 inches long. This allows 2 inches around the periphery of the pallet to attach straps, nets, or other restraint devices. An empty 463L pallet weighs 290 pounds (355 pounds with a complete set of nets) and has a maximum load capacity of 10,000 pounds. The maximum pounds per square inch for the 463L pallet is 250 pounds. If a load exceeds this limitation, then shoring must be used to spread the load over a larger area.


There are three nets to a set (Figure D-2): one top net (yellow) and two side nets (green/black). The side nets attach to the rings of the 463L pallet and the top net attaches by hooks to the rings on the side nets. These nets have multiple adjustment points and may be tightened to conform snugly to most loads. A complete set of 463L nets provides adequate restraint for a maximum of 10,000 pounds of cargo when properly attached to a 463L pallet. For 463L pallets that do not exceed 45 inches in height or 2,500 pounds, a single top net will be used to secure the load. When a top net is used, the belly band (Figure D-2) must not be more than 8 inches from the top of the pallet surface. As stated previously, the 463L pallet has a maximum height of 96 inches restraining 10,000 pounds. If the pallet exceeds 96 inches but is less that 100 inches, a maximum weight of 8,000 pounds is allowed. A complete set of nets weighs 65 pounds.

It is important to inspect the pallets and nets for serviceability before use. Failure to use serviceable systems will result in inspection failure during the joint inspection. Refer to the checklist at the end of this appendix for inspection guidance. Return questionable components to the Air Force/ITO for proper disposal.


Palletize cargo from the heaviest to the lightest (Figure D-3). Distribute large and heavy objects from the center of the pallet outwards to prevent the pallet from becoming heavy on one end. Doing this also helps maintain the center of balance at or near the center. Place lighter or smaller items on top of or beside the heavier cargo. Cargo with special handling labels must face outward whenever possible. Load hazardous cargo so that it is accessible to the aircrew and in such a manner to allow for ease of jettison. Construct the load in a square or pyramid shape whenever possible to make the load stable, easy to handle, and easier to secure on the pallet. Always put adequate dunnage under 463L pallets before cargo placement. The dunnage consists of a minimum of three 4- by 4- by 88-inch pieces of lumber equally spaced under the 463L pallet. This aids the movement of the pallets by forklift and protects the lower surface from damage. Remember to ship the dunnage with the pallets for storage after unloading at the destination. Pallets that contain water-sensitive cargo, such as electronics and paperwork, or water-absorbent cargo, such as baggage, should use the plastic 463L pallet cover, NSN 3990-00-930-1480.

Unit SOPs for pallet markings may differ; however, the minimum requirement is AF Form 2279 (Figure D-4). Pallet ID cards may be obtained from your servicing TALCE. Units should produce their own marking standards for SOPs.

Each aircraft has restrictions on the dimensional size and shape particular to that aircraft. Check the specific requirements of the aircraft for which the load is prepared.

Pallets should have pallet boards (Figure D-5) and the pallet ID cards attached. Each pallet should have two boards displayed so they are readily visible to the aircrew while in flight (normally one on the 88-inch side and one on the 108-inch side of the pallet). Using pallet boards will greatly increase the chances of misplaced pallets being returned. As a rule of thumb, the following information should be on the pallet boards:

  • Packing list of containers on pallet (UMO also retains copy).
  • Unit identification code and unit written out clearly.
  • LOGMARS label.
  • Points of contact and phone number for APOE/APOD.


Load and net the pallets properly to make pallet airworthy. Prior planning is the key. A sufficient number of personnel in the unit must be trained to do the job. The most prevalent reason cargo is bumped from an aircraft or causes delays is poor pallet buildup or netting.

Before using the nets, lay them all out and inspect them for serviceability. Do not use any nets that are torn or rotted or have loose stitching or bad or missing hooks. Only one bad strap and hook is enough to make the entire net unserviceable.

Side Nets

Identify the long sides (six hooks) and the short sides (five hooks) of the net and set the net right-side up. The net must be right-side up so the bottom hooks will point inward after the nets have been attached to the pallet rings. If the net is right-side up, the hooks face down as the net is lying on the ground. Also, many of the nets are the marked OUTSIDE.

Place the two side nets around the cargo on the pallet, and hook the hooks into the pallet rings. Start at one corner and work around the pallet (Figure D-6). Make sure the straps and hooks of the net cross at the corners of the pallet. Pull the net as high as it will go and hook the two side nets together. Each side net has adjustable straps between the long and short sides to make adjustments depending on the cargo placement. Side nets correctly hooked to the pallet rings will have O rings and tension-adjustable hooks to join together, uniting the two side nets. Do not tighten these straps until the side nets are hooked to the top net.

Top Net

Center the top net over the cargo. The long side of the top net goes with the long side of the side nets and pallet. Hook the top net into the side nets using the O rings located on the top portion of the side nets. If the cargo height restricts the use of these O rings, use the large O rings found about halfway up the side nets. Never use the bottom row of O rings with the hooks to secure the top net in place over the cargo. Cargo permitting, use the same row of rings on the side nets to ensure that the top net pulls evenly. When the top net is hooked in, two people should pull evenly on all the straps opposite of each other to tighten the top net, ensuring that the net stays equally distributed over the cargo. When all the straps are tightened, including the side net straps, tuck the loose ends of the straps into the netting to prevent snagging during loading or unloading operations.


Weigh each 463L pallet built with cargo, and record the scaled weight on all copies of the cargo manifest. Ensure the scaled weight is clearly marked on two sides (one on either 88-inch side and one on either 108-inch side) of the 463L pallet. Pallet weight markings (Figure D-7) may be stapled to the net. Measure the cargo height and record it on the cargo manifest.

NOTE: Include the weight of three-point dunnage with the pallet, as the dunnage will accompany the pallet on the aircraft.

Units should use AF Form 2279 (Figure D-4) or create their own version. It is important that the the data be clearly posted and correct. As a rule, the pallet identification cards must contain the following information:

  • Pallet identification number; for example, PC-2.
  • Aircraft configuration; for example, C-141/C-2M.
  • Originating station; for example, Langley Air Force Base, VA.
  • Net weight of pallet.
  • Miscellaneous information; for example, hazardous material.
  • Destination station; for example, Pope Air Force Base, NC.
  • Gross weight of pallet.

These pallets can be moved with a forklift, but the times must be a minimum of 72 inches long. Use only forklifts rated at a lifting capacity equal to or greater than pallet weight. See Appendix F for guidance on MHE used in air movements.


*Cargo of odd shapes and sizes may require movement by air. When the requirement to ship cargo exceeds the dimensions of a single 463L pallet, join two or more 463L pallets together (Figure D-8), forming a marriage of the pallets. This is often referred to as a pallet train. It is always to used to work pallet trains from an elevated platform. Place the pallets on a rollerized cargo deck, a rollerized flatbed truck, or as a last resort, a K loader (this should be avoided if possible because it will tie-up the K loader until the pallets are loaded onboard the aircraft). Align the indents of the pallet along the 108-inch side of the pallet. Space pallet couplers (Figure D-8) in the indents to lock the pallets together. Contact your affiliated ALCS for couplers.

To place cargo on married pallets, load long, heavy cargo first, distributing weight evenly over the pallet to avoid a heavy-ended pallet. Next, Place lighter or smaller cargo on top or around the heavier cargo (Figure D-9). Ensure all cargo is loaded with labels or special handling documentation visible to load teams, air crew, and transient personnel.


There are many techniques for the tying down and lashing of cargo (Figure D-10). Following are some of the key points to remember:

  • Use a barrier and chain gate for loose, heavy items, such as lumber and pipe.
  • Use chains and tie-down devices for large items, such as canned engines or palletized wheeled items.
  • Do not attach more than 50 percent of the restraint to the axles of wheeled equipment.
  • Use a 463L net for multiple loose items that fit within the usable dimensions of a single 463L pallet.
  • Use chains for heavy items, such as large boxes and vehicles.
  • Use 5,000-pound tie-down straps, as required to provide individual item restraint or to provide supplemental restraint to 463L nets.


Table D-1 gives prices and national stock numbers (NSNs) for components of the 463L pallet system. Units should purchase the items or draw through the local supply system adequate numbers to conduct load team training on a regular basis.


The following checklist will help the unit prepare for deployment:

__ 1. Are you prepared to follow good safety practices?

__ 2. Do personnel have steel-toed safety shoes and work gloves, if necessary?

__ 3. Have personnel been briefed on proper lifting techniques?

__ 4. Is the pallet skin free of damage, top and bottom? Are there any bent lips on the 88-inch side?

__ 5. Are tie-down rings serviceable?

__ 6. Is the pallet level and not warped?

__ 7. Is the pallet free of corrosion?

__ 8. Is the pallet clean and free of dirt?

__ 9. Is the pallet right side up?

__ 10. Is the pallet placed on three-point dunnage?

__ 11. Is the cargo to be placed on the pallet securely packaged?

__ 12. Does the cargo have required markings?

__ 13. Are hazardous cargo labels (SFs 400 to 422) attached to items of hazardous cargo or their containers? Is a DD Form 1387-2 (Special Handling Data/Certification) attached to all hazardous sensitive items and nonhazardous sensitive items that leave owning unit custody?

__ 14. Is cargo that is marked with arrows (THIS SIDE UP) positioned with arrows up?

__ 15. Are hazardous items on the pallet compatible with TM 38-250?

__ 16. Is all hazardous cargo positioned for easy access in flight? Are hazardous cargo labels visible from an 88-inch side of the pallet?

__ 17. Is the cargo arranged on the pallet to meet the following criteria:

  • Are the heavier boxes and crates placed on the bottom of the pallet load?
  • Is lighter, more fragile cargo placed on top of the pallet load?
  • Is the cargo arranged and properly stacked so that it is stable?

__ 18. Is the height of the buildup pallet 96 inches or less from the top skin of the pallet?

__ 19. Is the pallet loaded with more than 10,000 pounds of cargo?

__ 20. Is the cargo loaded so that it is no more than 104 inches wide with no overhang over either of the 108-inch sides?

__ 21. Is the pallet loading limited to less than 250 pounds per square inch on the pallet's surface?

__ 22. Is the cargo susceptible to weather damage? (If so, cover it.)

__ 23. Is the cargo secured to the pallet using two side nets and a top net?

*__ 24. Is the pallet smaller than 45 inches and 2,500 pounds? (If so, use a single top net.)

__ 25. Does the pallet have 22 serviceable rings?

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