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There’s trouble afoot at poor old Envirotainer, the friendly Swedish-based cool chain ULD people. The FAA seems to have done a u-turn on its US certification.

The group effectively ignored the US market to begin with, as there was little appetite among the airlines, but as the US carriers began to recognise the yields that could be gained from cool chain shipments, Envirotainer realised it had to step in to compete with CSafe, which had the only FAA-approved compressor-based system. 

So to much fanfare, Envirotainer announced in September that its RKN e1 active ULD had been approved for use by US carriers by the FAA.

Except, it appears, that may have been rather premature. Yesterday, the US DoT and FAA announced to operators that the RKN e1 is not certified as an active ULD and cannot be used yet by US carriers. 

Clearly, some hapless person has made a horrible mistake – although whether that person is at the FAA or Environtainer has yet to be revealed. Luckily for Envirotainer, no US carriers are currently using its active ULD – suggesting it got into the market too late. 

Nichols Martin, director R&D and QA for Envirotainer told The Loadstar: “FAA issued an approval for the Envirotainer RKN e1 container on September 7th, 2011. It was later discovered that the approval reference made by FAA did not cover the operational use of the container.

“The information letter sent out by FAA is clarifying this and Envirotainer has not released any RKN e1 units to US carriers. We are currently working on supplying additional requested data to FAA to expedite approval for operational use.”

Those in the know on cool chain containers (a select bunch, it has to be said), believe the RKNe1 didn’t complete sufficient FAA tests of the circulation fans, although that has yet to be verified. No doubt Envirotainer has a busy few weeks ahead of it, trying to clear up the mess. And in the meantime, CSafe remains the only approved supplier for the US carriers. 

The European carriers, meanwhile, have no concerns. “For us this news is fine,” said one. “If no US carriers can use it, there is less competition for us.”