I don’t think anyone ever asks me what an ATA case is. Everyone “knows” what an ATA case is. Since every company that makes a case says they are ATA cases, everyone seems to assume that all ATA is the same. NOT SO!
The ATA Specification 300 has three categories for cases or containers: CAT 1 sets forth design and construction standards for a case built to withstand the rigors of 100 round trips by air freight; CAT 2 sets design and manufacturing standards for a case built to last 20 round trips; and CAT 3 sets design and manufacturing standards for 1 round trip. Basically a sturdy cardboard box with Styrofoam to protect the boxes’ content. These trip numbers are based on material and workmanship. It doesn’t matter how good the case is built if the forklift puts a hole in it.
This means that all those cases brought in from overseas or made in someone’s garage, do indeed meet some ATA specs. But what good is an ATA case that is good for one trip if you need to ship it repeatedly? You will be replacing that wonderful ATA case every time you ship it. And how long can you afford to do that?
I know that some of the imported cases look like the real thing. They have fancy chrome like ball corners, are made of 3/8 poplar and seem like the real thing. They have nice twist latches and recessed handles. But the corners and hardware are thin and brittle, the poplar is heavy and nothing like ACX ply and the method of assembly leaves something to be desired.
All the materials that go into making our case a real ATA case are manufactured themselves to a reasonable standard. You cannot use substandard materials to build an ATA case. Our corners, latches, handles, corner clamps, angle, and valance are themselves quality materials so our end products meet the rigid standards of the ATA Spec 300 Cat 1 and MIL spec 810.
Most of what goes into the building of a case is labor. The cost of labor is a pretty fixed price based how much it costs to keep a company up and running on a day to day basis. This means that someone operating (legally or illegally) out of a home based environment is going to be able to charge less for their labor because their overhead is less. Amazingly these same companies, who could afford to buy quality materials, often opt instead for inferior materials so they can charge less. They still build an ATA case at a cheaper price than we can. Their case will NOT go 100 round trips because their material and perhaps their workmanship are not up to standards.
The material price can be flexible. Since there are several companies that sell parts for ATA cases we might have the ability to shop around a bit. But there is also the need to be extremely careful about each piece. A huge percent of hardware now is produced overseas and shipped here. Some of it is quality and some of it is not. We could purchase much cheaper hardware but again, we would not be meeting our own level of standards let alone the ATA spec. You might say, “So what? Who will know?” The airlines will for sure. And we will know we produced an inferior product. And the customer will be the loser in the end.
The Air Transport Association as well as the International Air Transport Association and their member airlines have produced ATA Specification 300 and its 3 categories for their own protection. The specification sets the rules that govern their liability when a case and its content are damaged in transit. They only have to accept responsibility when the shipping cases design and manufacture are compliant with their specification. So the important question to ask the company or sales outlet that is offering you an ATA Style case is — does it just look like an ATA case or is it in fact compliant with the specification? If they say it is compliant ask them — which category is it compliant with? It is your money and if it is a non-compliant case it is your liability.
I guess the bottom line is that there are companies out there that care. We have been successful since 1976. You are not successful for that long unless you care. We care about the way we build a case. We care about the materials we use. We also care about how those materials are constructed. Our manufacturing meets the AQMD’s standards. We will not stoop to building an inferior case with substandard materials and call it an ATA case. You will get what you pay for from us. It won’t be as cheap as the imported case, but the shipping company will pay to repair it when they trash it.
When you are spending your hard earned money, especially in this economy, you have to trust that you are getting your money’s worth. At A&S we work hard to earn and keep your trust. This means you may not need to replace or repair your case, but when you need a case for a new piece of equipment, you will return to us.