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A road case, roadie case, ATA case or flight case is a shipping container specifically built to protect musical instruments, motion picture equipment, audio and lighting production equipment, properties, or other sensitive equipment when it must be moved between locations, or frequently thrown around by airport baggage-handling personnel. A large number of varying-sized road cases can be built to outfit the needs of an entire touring production company, or custom designed individually for a specific industry or product.
The term road case is mostly used in the United States and implies that the case is primarily for road based travel, unlike a flight case. The term originates from its use for storing and shipping band equipment while the musicians were on the road.
The history of "flight" case design is based on an airplane parts packaging specification. It was designed by airline packaging engineers. The specification is ATA 300 Category I. ATA is the A4A (Airlines for America) International, formerly the Air Transport Association of America located in Washington, D.C. and consists of members like Boeing Airlines, Airbus, Fed-Ex, American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines. ATA 300 Cat I cases are designed to withstand 100 round trips, Cat II containers 10 round trips, and Cat III containers 1 round trip.. The original design required the cases to be white, so they would not be left on the airport runway when loading cases at night time. The first ATA 300 spec was published on August 1, 1960. <http://airlines.org/>
Most cases are fabricated from panels joined by metal or plastic extrusions, molded plastic, or metal. Fabricated cases are typically made from panels constructed of two layers. An outer layer of ABS or fiberglass laminate is adhered to a middle layer of lightweight 3/16" to 1/2" cabinet-grade plywood such as birch, poplar, or maple. These two layers are known as laminate panel, and high grade cases are made from composite material. Inside the case, an internal shock-absorbing filler such as polyurethane or polyethylene foam has cavities that correspond to the shape of the component(s) it is preserving. Alternate shock protection methods include mounting the case contents to racks or panels attached to the case walls with shock isolators. The corners of fabricated cases are commonly reinforced with stamped sheet steel case corners commonly finished in zinc, nickel, chrome. The term "ATA Case" is frequently used to describe cases that resemble those that comply with ATA Spec 300 category I, but have not been certified by the independent testing defined in ATA Spec 300.
Caster wheels are often built into or attached to the case for ease of transit, and may be removable to prevent damage to other containers or to the airframe.
Molded cases are typically made of polyethylene or polypropylene plastic by injection molding or rotational molding. Most are gasketed for splash protection. They typically have the same interior and wheel options as fabricated panel cases.
Typical uses for road cases on tour are wardrobe, hair and make-up, catering, rigging, backline, sound, lights, video, production and carpentry. Road cases got their name because they are usually used by touring entertainment companies that need to take their show out 'on the road'. Road cases configured with rackmounts are widely used on the road for pro audio, lighting, sound recording and video. Other applications include motion picture production, military, sports, medical, rental and staging.