Road case

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Road cases

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, Airbus, FedEx, American, United, and JetBlue. ATA 300 Category I cases are designed to withstand a minimum of 100 round trips, Category II containers a minimum of 10 round trips, and Category III containers 1 round trip as defined to also include return of a repair part. The recommended color of reusable cases is white, but the requirement is waived to permit a carrier's traditional or logo colors except for very dark colors, because of visibility requirements during nighttime airline operations. The first ATA 300 spec was published on August 1, 1960.[1]


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 or II, but have not been certified by the independent testing defined in ATA Spec 300. Category I and II cases are required to be tested both as a pre-production prototype and as a sample selected from the first production lot. Tests include Stackability, Drop or Impact, Water Resistance, Vibration (category I only), and Penetration (category I only). Of these, the drop test, stackability, and vibration tests are probably the most severe. For cases under 50 lbs gross (loaded) the drop test requires 160 face drops from 30", 80 edge drops from 36", and 40 corner drops from 36". the face drop distance is reduced to 21" up to 100 lbs, 18" 150 lbs, 16" 200 lbs or more. Category II cases are dropped 1/10th as many times from 22" & 27" at 50 lbs, and proportionally for heavier cases. The stackability test requires every case face over .37 sq meters (4 sq ft) to support 135 kg (300 lbs) centered on 0.09 sq m (1 sq ft) of the face for 24 hours. The vibration test searches for the 4 strongest resonances between 5 and 50 Hz, and then tests each at 0.5g for 2 hours on each principle axis. The penetration test is a 6 kg steel bar 3.2 cm in diameter with a hemishperical end dropped 0.5m on the weakest point. For all tests no degradation or functional damage is allowed.[2]

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 and may be gasketed for splash protection. They typically have similar interior and wheel options as fabricated panel cases. The ATA specified performance temperature range -40 °F to 130 °F, or -40 °C to 54 °C tends to exclude thermoplastic cases large enough to be subject to the stackability test.

Cases may be further customized by adding a power adapter and a computer fan. Thus certain equipment may operate in transit or at destination without leaving the protection of the case.


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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Airlines For America".
  2. ^ "ATA 300 Specification for Packaging of Airline Supplies" (PDF). Internet Archive. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-03-08.