When flying with a commercial airline, you probably do not think much about the weight and balance of the plane. In fact, the only time you may think of the weight is the weight of your checked baggage as many airlines have restrictions on that or extra charges for this. You may have had the weight on your plane affect you without even knowing it. Your seat may have been moved to distribute the weight better, or you may have had your luggage bumped to another flight. While these are inconvenient, you may not have realized how important something like that is.
So, what is the weight and balance, and how do they determine the weight and balance of the plane? Let’s take a look.
What is Weight and Balance?
Weight and balance are important factors in the design, performance, and stability of a plane under different operating conditions. The balance is maintained through the center of gravity of the plane, and the total weight of everything on the plane — as well as the distribution of the weight in the plane.
Why is Weight and Balance Important?
If there is too much weight in the front of the plane, it will be hard to raise the nose. If the weight is too far in the back, it might be harder to recover from the plane stalling. A simple way to think about this is the see-saw on the playground; think about how it goes up and down based on the way the weight is distributed.
The parameters for the weight ensure that the wings and the plane as a whole can support the plane. The pilot has to determine the weight and balance of the plane before every flight to ensure the plane is operated appropriately. This is done for the safety of everyone onboard the plane.
“Overloading an aircraft can create a variety of problems:
· “The aircraft needs a higher takeoff speed, which results in a longer takeoff run.
· “Both the rate and angle of climb are reduced.
· “The service ceiling is lowered.
· “The cruising speed is reduced.
· “The cruising range is shortened.
· “Maneuverability is decreased.
· “A longer landing roll is required because the landing speed is higher.
· “Excessive loads are imposed on the structure, especially the landing gear.”
In the summer, when the weather approaches triple-digits, it can make the air feel like the plane is at a higher altitude than it is. This can further increase the dangers of inaccurate weight and balance calculations.
The weight and balance are so important to the safety of a flight, that the Federal Aviation Administration investigated Southwest Airlines last year, suspecting that about a third of their 4,000 flights per day had inaccurate weight and balance.
On a small plane, weight and balance are especially important, since there are so few people on the aircraft to distribute the weight and balance. While QuikCharter’s Cirrus SR22 can seat four people, it is crucial to understand that the weight and balance may make it so that you can only bring three with you to make sure everything is properly balanced. While this may be an inconvenience for you, it is also for your safety.
Deener, Sarah. “Technique: Weight and Balance.” AOPA, 1 Sept. 2018, www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2018/september/flight-training-magazine/technique-weight-and-balance.
Gilbertson, Dawn. “Southwest Airlines under FAA Investigation for Aircraft Weight, Balance Calculations.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 18 Feb. 2019, www.usatoday.com/story/travel/flights/2019/02/18/southwest-airlines-under-faa-investigation-weight-balance-baggage/2905071002/.
“Home.” Weight and Balance, www.cfinotebook.net/notebook/aerodynamics-and-performance/weight-and-balance#case-studies.
“Weight and Balance Handbook.” Federal Aviation Administration, 2016, www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/handbooks_manuals/aviation/media/faa-h-8083-1.pdf.