A loadmaster is a member of a military who monitors and coordinates the loading and unloading of cargo planes. Sometimes the term may refer to a non-military worker as well, and in either case, the job of the loadmaster is pivotal to the safety and efficiency of the plane's operation. Some of the duties of a loadmaster include supervising a load crew, ensuring all items loaded on board are properly ordered and secured, unloading cargo quickly and in such a manner that the most important items get unloaded first, and calculating load limits for the airplane.
Many military aircraft used as cargo planes will need to be prepared to make quick tactical maneuvers, so the loadmaster must ensure all cargo is properly secured and loaded to prevent it from moving during such maneuvers. This means the job of the loadmaster will be different with military aircraft than it would be with civilian aircraft, which are less likely to need to perform tactical maneuvers during flight. The loadmaster must know and understand the design of the planes as well so he or she can properly balance a load and keep heavier loads off the weakest parts of the plane.
Many aircraft feature large cargo bays, but even these bays can become overloaded. It will fall to the loadmaster to ensure usable space is maximized by properly packing the cargo in such a manner that weight is distributed as effectively as possible while taking advantage of every inch of the bay. He or she will often use computer software to make calculations regarding weight distribution and packing order, though sometimes hand-drawn charts can be used, as well as visual inspections of the cargo bay itself. In some cases, the loadmaster will stay on the plane during flight to monitor the cargo and ensure it is still safely secured and balanced throughout the duration of that flight.
Before the plane is loaded, the cargo must be staged outside of the aircraft so it can be inspected and positioned for loading. Loadmasters will oversee this process as well, and any necessary changes to the cargo order or loading can be made at this time. Making changes to the cargo once it is secured in the plane can be exceptionally difficult, and it may be altogether impossible once the plane is in flight. Proper prior planning is exceptionally important to ensure the safety of the aircraft as well as the safety of all cargo throughout the duration of the flight.