Aircraft Weight and Balance: Standard Weights

How much does an airplane weigh?Here are a few examples of common aircraft and how much they weighWhat is the world’s largest plane?

What is the heaviest plane?Fuel And Passenger WeightsHow to calculate actual aircraft weightWhat does an average aircraft weigh?What is “minimum flight weight?”How much does a small plane weigh?Do planes have a weight limit for passengers?How much does it cost to fuel a 747?How many people can a 747 seat?Is Boeing 777 bigger than 747?

How much does an airplane weigh?

An average airplane weighs around 90,000 pounds (41,000 kilos) empty weight, which means the weight of the airplane when its fuel tanks are empty and there are no people or luggage on board

This example is for a B-737-800 aircraft (which I flew all over the world, see my story here) which is considered a medium-sized commercial jet airliner

You can expect to add 84,000 pounds (38,000 kilos) of fuel, passengers, and baggage to that number to get a maximum takeoff weight of 174,000lbs (79,000 kilos)

Obviously, these numbers depend dramatically on the type of aircraft you are referring to

I will show you 13 examples of different airplane weights in this article for you to reference

As a general rule, you can expect most airliners to weigh about 1350 pounds per foot length!

Here are a few examples of common aircraft and how much they weigh

Cessna 172 – Used by many as initial training aircraft (27 feet long) – 1450lbs empty weight, 2450lbs max weightCitation Jet M2 – (42 feet long) – 6990lbs empty weight, 10,700lbs max weightBoeing 767-300 – (185 feet long) – 195,000lbs empty weight, 400,000 max weightBoeing 787-800 – (186 feet long) – 264,500lbs empty weight, 502,500lbs max weightBoeing 777-300 – (242 feet long) – 354,000lbs empty weight, 660,000lbs max weightBoeing 747-400 – (232 feet long) – 407,000lbs empty weight, 910,000lbs max weightAirbus A320 – (123 feet long) – 82,000lbs empty weight, 170,000lbs max weightAirbus A330 – (210 feet long) – 274,500lbs empty weight, 507,000lbs max weight

The world’s largest passenger airliner is the Airbus A380

Its maximum takeoff weight is over a million pounds!

It is the longest plane, and with six engines is both the heaviest aircraft ever built and the largest wingspan of an aircraft

Fuel And Passenger Weights

Fuel and passenger weights play a crucial role in determining the maximum weight of the aircraft

Every aircraft has a maximum weight that is provided by the manufacturer

This number is not to be exceeded for any aircraft used privately or commercially

In order to determine the actual weight of the aircraft, you must add the empty weight of the plane + fuel weight + passenger weight + baggage weight

This number cannot be above the maximum allowable weight limit of the aircraft

Aircraft fuel can be divided into 2 groups (for the purpose of this article)

Avgas and Jet fuel

They both have different weights

Avgas is what the smaller non-jet engine aircraft will use

It weighs around 6lbs per US gallon

Jet fuel weighs slightly more at just under 7lbs per US gallon

Passenger weights are determined by the actual weight of people on board

In the example of commercial airliners, there is no way to know the actual person weight of each person on board, so they use an average weight which is based on gender, age, time of year and also allows for carry on baggage they may be bringing

How to calculate actual aircraft weight

It can be really confusing when looking at the numbers to determine the actual aircraft weight and what it all means

There are a few different terms you need to know

OEW is is the weight of the aircraft as it sits empty without fuel, passengers or luggage

MTOW is the maximum weight of the aircraft to safely takeoff considering structural or other limits

As mentioned, the maximum weight that any aircraft can be at the time of takeoff is MTOW

This is calculated by taking OEW + Fuel + Passengers + Luggage – Fuel for taxi to runway = MTOW

Using our initial example of the B737-800 aircraft, the MTOW is 174,000 lbs

To calculate the actual weight of the plane on the day of the flight, using our formula above: 90,000lbs + 60,000lbs fuel + 25,000 passengers + 1200lbs luggage – 100lbs fuel = 176,100 MTOW

With so many variables involved, each aircraft is different and therefore will have different weights

Each aircraft will have its own OEW and depending on the payload, will have a different MTOW

What does an average aircraft weigh?

The average medium-sized airliner weighs around 90,000lbs

What is “minimum flight weight?”

Minimum flight weight refers to the minimum weight of a plane in its ready-to-fly status (meaning it has enough fuel in the fuel tank to make a realistic flight, other fluids like hydraulic and engine oils, and other miscellaneous items

Minimum flight weight doesn’t include flight crew or any cargo

How much does a small plane weigh?

A small plane or aircraft as defined by 14 CFR part 1 is 12,500 lbs or less maximum certificated take-off weight

Do planes have a weight limit for passengers?

No, there isn’t a weight limit for passengers in the United States on commercial flights, but some airlines do require customers who don’t easily fit in one seat to pay for an additional seat

If you have specific questions like this it is best to call the airline you are considering flying with to ask them about their passenger size regulations

A 747 can hold 63,000 gallons of jet fuel costing about $190,000 – $210,000

Airplanes have evolved since the Wright Brothers’ plane first took off in 1903, weighing only 605 pounds (2744 kg)

Today’s aircraft have only gotten heavier with their various sizes, designs, equipment, and cargo capabilities

How much an airplane weighs depends on its size and model

The average commercial plane weighs 1529 to 2201 tons (138,7085 kg to 199,6713 kg)

An aircraft’s weight also fluctuates depending on how much fuel, cargo, and passengers it’s carrying, its material, and external temperatures

This article covers how planes are weighed, the contributing factors to a plane’s mass, and how heavy the average commercial airplane is

How Are Planes Weighed?

An airplane’s weight will change depending on when it’s measured

For example, a plane will be much lighter when empty than when fully loaded for take-off

This section covers the various points of reference that impact the weight of an aircraft

Empty Operating Weight 

An aircraft’s empty operating weight (EOW) refers to how much the plane weighs alone without add-ons like its fuel, passengers, and cargo

Maximum Take-Off Weight

Alternatively, a plane’s maximum take-off weight (MTOW) refers to how heavy the aircraft is after it’s stocked and ready to depart

Maximum Landing Weight

Interestingly, airplanes are lighter when they land, often making the maximum landing weight (MLW) less than the MTOW

This weight loss isn’t because flying burns calories; it happens because the aircraft uses a lot of  fuel during flight

What Factors Contribute to a Plane’s Weight?

Many factors contribute to a plane’s empty operating weight and maximum take-off weight

These factors include what goes onto an airplane, into it, and the elements around it

Passengers and Cargo

In addition to the EOW, passengers, cargo, and fuel can add about 84,000 lbs (38,101 kg) to an aircraft’s overall weight

Planes don’t have a weight limit per passenger, but they will have a maximum total weight limit for all passengers

Sometimes, crew members have passengers move seats to ensure that weight is properly distributed throughout the plane

Alternatively, individual cargo (ie, carry-on and checked luggage) has weight limits assigned by each airline

Carriers enforce weight limits and balance practices to avoid a lopsided or overloaded plane

The materials that make up the plane matter when considering its EOW

Most commercial airplanes are made from lightweight and durable materials like aluminum, steel, and composites containing carbon fiber and Kevlar

To top it all off, did you know there’s a reason why most planes are painted white?

Aside from keeping the inside of the aircraft cool and making hazardous blemishes easy to spot, white paint also keeps the airplane light

Paint can add approximately 600 to 1200 lbs (272 kg to 544 kg) to the airplane’s EOW – the same weight as up to eight additional passengers!

With temperatures rising across the globe, the molecules needed to lift the plane from gravity’s pull are reducing, making airplanes increasingly heavier for take-off

How Much Does the Average Commercial Plane Weigh?

The average commercial plane has an empty operating weight of around 1529 to 2201 tons (138,7085 kg to 199,6713 kg)

That said, the typical maximum take-off weight for a commercial aircraft is between 320 to 4477 tons (290,299 kg to 406,1466 kg)

The maximum landing weight of the average large commercial plane can reach about 2548 tons (231,164 kg)

However, remember that an airplane’s weight will always fluctuate depending on its style, size, and payload

How Much Do Different Planes Weigh?

Compared to commercial planes, some personal aircraft weigh less because of their smaller size and capacity

On average, a personal airplane can weigh 740 to 2,750 pounds (3356 kg to 12473 kg), depending on size

With the addition of a few passengers and some luggage, these cozier planes can reach an MTOW of approximately 12,500 lbs (5,670 kg)

Strategic aircraft, like fighter jets, weigh between 101 and 225 tons (91625 kg and 20,4116 kg) and depending on the model, size, and type of jet, the MTOW can reach between 52 and a whopping 7054 tons (4,800 kg and 640,000 kg)

Half of a fighter jet’s MTOW accounts for the plane alone since the aircraft is typically technology-heavy

Passenger weight is less of a factor since these jets are snug and typically only accommodate two flyers

What Happens if a Plane Is Too Heavy?

It can be hard to wrap your head around how a monstrous machine like a commercial plane can soar gracefully among the clouds

In simple terms, airplanes defy gravity by using thrust (ie, speed) to push air over and under the wings to generate lift

However, there are instances where the plane’s MTOW is too heavy to take off, fly, or land safely

An extremely heavy plane might not lift off the ground; if it does, it might only rise a few meters because of the ground effect phenomenon

When the MLW is too heavy, the aircraft can experience structural damage or breakage while landing (which probably wouldn’t end with passenger applause)

If an aircraft has been overbooked and is too heavy to take off safely, passengers might be asked to exit and board another plane

To make sure airplanes are fit for flight, they are weighed using load cells or towed onto a weighing platform

The weight of an airplane will always depend on the make, model, and what (or who’s) onboard

When fresh off the assembly line, the average commercial aircraft weighs 1529 to 2201 tons (138,7085 kg to 199,6713 kg), give or take

Airplanes are weighed based on empty operating weight, maximum take-off weight, and maximum landing weight

Aircraft weight is based on the payload (eg, passengers, baggage, fuel, etc ), the material makeup of the plane, and sometimes external temperatures

Table of ContentsHow Are Planes Weighed?Empty Operating Weight Maximum Take-Off WeightMaximum Landing WeightWhat Factors Contribute to a Plane’s Weight?Passengers and CargoMaterialsExternal TemperaturesHow Much Does the Average Commercial Plane Weigh?How Much Do Different Planes Weigh?

What Happens if a Plane Is Too Heavy?Conclusion

Some of the weights that airplanes take off are staggering

In this article, I want to look at some of the most recognizable aircraft and break down what they weigh and what makes up the weight

The Boeing 737 can weigh from 132,000lbs/60,000kg to 187,000lbs/85,000kg at takeoff depending on the model, compared to a small Cessna 172 weighing around 2,400lb/1,11kg

An aircraft’s empty weight, fuel, passengers & cargo must not weigh more than the aircraft’s Maximum Gross Takeoff Weight

The weight of the aircraft is needed to be calculated by the pilot for every flight to ensure the aircraft remains within weight limitations set by the manufacturer

These limitations are to ensure the aircraft is able to perform and recover from all flight maneuvers and withstand structural loading

Typical Airplane Weights

Below is a table of some of the most common aircraft flying around our skies today:

AircraftEmpty WeightMax Fuel WeightMax Cargo WeightMax Gross Takeoff WeightAntanov AN-225628,000 lbs285,000 kg 661,400 lbs300,000 kg417,000 lbs190,000 kg1,411,000 lbs640,000 kg Airbus A380-800611,000 lbs277,000 kg560,000 lbs254,000 kg 185,000 lbs84,000 kg1,268,000 lbs575,000 kgBoeing 747-800485,300 lbs220,100 kg427,400 lbs194,000 kg295,000 lbs134,000 kg987,000 lbs447,700 kgAirbus A340-500370,000 lbs168,000 kg386,300 lbs175,000 kg119,000 lbs54,000 kg820,000 lbs372,000 kgBoeing 777-300ER370,000 lbs 168,000 kg 320,800 lbs 145,500 kg148,000 lbs67,100 kg776,000 lbs352,000 kgBoeing 787-10299,000 lbs 135,500 kg223,500 lbs101,500 kg126,300 lbs 57,300 kg560,000 lbs254,000 kgBoeing 737-90098,500 lbs44,700 kg53,100 lbs24,000 kg44,600 lbs20,200 kg187,000 lbs85,000 kgAirbus A320-10093,900 lbs42,600 kg48,700 lbs22,100 kg44,000 lbs20,000 kg150,000 lbs68,000 kgEmbraer 19063,500 lbs28,800 kg28,600 lbs13,000 kg 28,800 lbs13,100 kg106,000 lbs48,000 kgGulfstream G65054,000 lbs 24,500 kg48,200 lbs 21,900 kg6,500 lbs3,000 kg100,000 lbs45,200 kgBombardier CRJ90048,160 lbs 21,850 kg19,600 lbs 8,900 kg6,075 lbs 2,760 kg80,500 lbs36,500 kgBombardier Q40039,300 lbs17,800 kg11,700 lbs5,300 kg18,700 lbs8,500 kg62,000 lbs28,000 kgLearjet 7513,900 lbs 6,300 kg6,060 lbs2,750 kg2,900 lbs1,300 kg21,500 lbs9,700 kgCessna Citation CJ410,300 lbs 4,700 kg5,800 lbs2,650 kg2,200 lbs 1,000 kg17,200 lbs7,800 kgBeechcraft King Air B1007,100 lbs 3,200 kg3,200 lbs1,450 kg4,150 lbs1,900 kg12,000 lbs5,400 kgDiamond DA50 RG 3,200 lbs1,450 kg340 lbs155 lbs1,250 lbs560 kg4,400 lbs2,000 kgBeechcraft Bonanza G362,500 lbs 1,150 kg450 lbs200 kg850 lbs385 kg3,660 lbs1,660 kgCessna 206H 2,200 lbs990 kg520 lbs235 kg1,150 lbs520 kg3,600 lbs1,630 kgSirrus SR222,250 lbs 1,000 kg485 lbs220 kg950 lbs430 kg3,600 lbs1,630 kgCessna 172R1,700 lbs770 kg380 lbs170 kg560 lbs255 kg2,425 lbs1,100 kgAll Links In This Table To Wikipediacom

What Do Aircraft Weight Names Mean?

You may have been looking at the table above and thinking the numbers don’t work out because if you took the Aircraft Empty Weight and added the Maximum Fuel Weight and Maximum Cargo it could carry, it could be well over the aircraft’s Maximum Gross Weight

This is where a compromise of fuel vs cargo/passengers is required and is referred to as the Useful Load

Aircraft Empty Weight (AEW)

This is sometimes referred to as OEW – Operating Empty Weight and it is the weight of the aircraft with all its equipment on board but no fuel, no passengers or no cargo

Think of this like the aircraft has just come out of the factory and is sitting waiting to be fueled up for delivery to the customer

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Aircraft Maximum Gross Takeoff Weight (MGTW)

This is the maximum permissible weight the aircraft can weigh as it lifts off the ground at takeoff

This includes the aircraft’s empty weight, the fuel, the crew, the passengers, and all the cargo

This weight limit is set by the manufacturer and is gospel

Aircraft Useful Load

This is the weight that a pilot can place in the aircraft

Take the MGTW figure and subtract the AEW and this is the total useful load that can be placed into the aircraft

This is the fuel, crew, passengers, and cargo

The bigger the load, the more useful the aircraft can be to its customers!

How Fuel, Passengers & Cargo Affect Aircraft Weight

Each item of weight added to the aircraft has to be accounted for and some items can be left off the flight and others not so much

There are several scenarios we can look at, and for these examples, I will use the Astar helicopter I fly, as it is really easy for me to work out the numbers:

Aircraft Empty Weight: 3000 lbsAircraft Maximum Gross Weight: 4961 lbsAircraft Maximum Fuel Weight: 1000 lbsAircraft Useful Load: 1961 lbs

Scenario #1: All Fuel & No Cargo or Passengers

This would be on a flight when I have finished a job and I am returning back to the hanger after dropping off the passengers and their cargo:

Scenario #2: Full Passengers & 200 lbs of Cargo

Aircraft Empty Weight: 3000 lbs

Aircraft Empty Weight: 3000 lbs

Pilot Weight: 185 lbs

Pilot Weight: 185 lbs

Passengers Weight: 950 lbs

Cargo Weight: 200 lbs

Aircraft Full Fuel Weight: 1000 lbs

Aircraft Full Fuel Weight: 1000 lbs

Total Aircraft Weight = 5,335 lbs (374 lbs OVER MGTW)

Total Aircraft Weight = 5,335 lbs (374 lbs OVER MGTW)

In this scenario I would need to offload weight

Usually, the passengers and their cargo need to go as they are the ones doing the work, so fuel has to be reduced

Instead of filling the aircraft fuel tank up to 100%, I can only fill it to around 60% to keep the aircraft under its MGTW

This just means that I may need to refuel more often or plan the day to have a fuel stop en route somewhere

If you would like to know how much fuel today’s modern commercial airplanes can carry and how much it costs to fill them please check out this article:

How Much Fuel Do Airplanes Carry?

Because the maximum Gross Takeoff Weight of an aircraft is so important it a listed in the Limitations Section of every aircraft flight manual

The exceedance of any weight in the limitations section deems the aircraft unairworthy

Even the mammoth Antanov AN-225 has a maximum weight limit which the flight crew must adhere to, albeit considerably higher than the maximum takeoff weight of a Gulfstream G650!

This compromising is what pilots do for every flight to ensure the maximum fuel can be taken given the load to be lifted by the aircraft

Fuel, Passengers, Cargo – That’s all the pilots can manipulate!

How Much Do Helicopters Weigh?

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To fly safely, aircraft must be balanced and loaded correctly

Imagine if, before every flight, you had to weigh everything onboard

Because we use standard weights when calculating aircraft weight and balance

Today we will talk you through how aircraft loads are calculated, explain the general concept, and discuss factors that affect aircraft weight and balance

Standard Weights for Aircraft Weight and Balance – Quick Reference Table

The weight of several things carried aboard the aircraft can be easily computed using standard weights

Below, you’ll find a quick reference table detailing standard weights used in aviation

You can use these to calculate the weight of fluids carried aboard the airplane: –

How to Calculate Aircraft Weights Using the Above Table

Calculating liquid weights is really simple

All we need to do is multiply the total number of gallons on board the aircraft by the weight, considering the temperature

So, using the above table, let’s assume we have loaded 50 gallons of avgas onto our airplane

Total Fuel Weight = Volume (in USG) x Weight Factor

Total Fuel Weight = 50 x 601

Total Fuel Weight = 300lbs

Why Do Different Liquids Weight Different Amounts?

Different liquids weigh different amounts based on their density

Generally speaking, every liquid has a different number of molecules based on a given set volume

The more molecules, the more the liquid weighs

To put it in technical terms, heavier liquids have a higher density

You might be surprised to learn that a set volume of fuel, oil, and even alcohol and milk, weigh less than the same volume of water

Use the table above using our calculation formula for ten gallons of water and then compare it to ten gallons of oil!

Why Do Standard Weights Include Temperature Data?

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that there are two columns, giving different values depending on temperature

When calculating airplane mass and balance, we are primarily interested in weight, not volume

Remember how we said fluids weigh different amounts based on their density?

Well, this density (the number of molecules in a given volume of fluid) changes based on the temperature of that fluid

As a general rule, you need to remember this…

The volume of most fluids changes based on temperature

If the volume goes up, that means the mass is divided by a greater number, making the density less

While you may not think this is significant, a relatively minor temperature change can make all the difference

The Effects of Weight and Balance on Aircraft Behavior – 10 Things to Consider

Standard weights are vitally important to safe flight

Also, according to Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, you must familiarize yourself with the aircraft’s gross weight

There are many things that are significantly affected by the weight of the aircraft, so getting to grips with mass and balance is really key

Here are several areas that are affected by aircraft weight and balance: –

Every airplane will be designed with certain weight limitations in mind

The weight on the gear and the forces generated while maneuvering is based on well-defined tolerances

Increased weight leads to increased stress on the aircraft

Too much weight will lead to too much stress, which isn’t good!

Fuel Efficiency and Range

If you’ve read our article on flight forces, you’ll already know that to maintain level flight, lift must overcome weight

More weight means more lift

We need to create more thrust using the airplane engine to overcome drag

So, it is safe to say that a heavier aircraft will be less fuel-efficient and have a shorter range!

The speed at which the aircraft stalls is influenced by the weight

The heavier the airplane, the sooner we reach the stall

So, it is vital to know how much the airplane weighs

The airplane is maneuvered around the center of gravity

This is the pivot point of the aircraft

The further a force is applied from a pivot point, the greater its effect

The center of gravity is directly affected by where the mass is located on the airplane

By moving and changing the center of gravity, we can ensure that we get optimum handling characteristics

As we’ve already stated, the lift must exceed the weight for an airplane to fly

As lift is a function of airspeed, it would be fair to say that we need to fly faster to get airborne when taking off if we have increased weight

Airplane brakes work by converting kinetic energy (a clever term for the aircraft’s forward speed) into heat energy (through friction)

The more weight, the greater the kinetic energy

Too much weight and the airplane won’t be able to stop in time

Throw in the need for increased airspeed due to increased weight, and you may find that the required landing distance exceeds the actual landing distance!

Heavier airplane rates mean that the airplane’s cruising altitude will be lower

The maximum ceiling of the aircraft decreases with an increase in weight

The rate of climb is determined by the difference between the lift produced and the weight

With heavier weights, the difference is reduced

In areas with high terrain, you could find that you need to ensure minimum rates of climb, so pay careful attention to the airplane weight

Greater weight means higher speed

And, higher speed means an increased turn radius

In extreme cases, excessive weight can cause the airplane to behave unpredictably

Most training aircraft are inherently stable

However, if the weight isn’t within defined limits, this can quickly change and create dangerous situations

Standard Weights in Aviation – Why Do We Use Them?

It might be a little obvious, but all things on board an aircraft, whether big or small, add up

While some things may only weigh fractions of a pound, they can contribute significantly to the airplane weight when summed together

Imagine adding all the things on board an aircraft every time you fly?

To make life simpler, aviation regulatory bodies allow pilots to use standard weights

Most standard weights in aviation use well-defined averages

Here’s a quick list of a few defined standard weights according to the FAA: –

If you do know the actual weights of things on board, it is mandated that you must use them

Aircraft Standard Weights – Commonly Used Terms

Aircraft standard weights can be a little daunting, and you’ll encounter many technical-sounding terms during your aviation studies

Here at Pilot Institute, we like to make things simple

Here’s a quick list of common terms you’ll encounter when discussing standard weights and mass and balance in private aviation…

The point on the aircraft through which all weight acts

You can consider this the ‘pivot’ around which the airplane maneuvers

An arbitrary ‘line’ is used as a point of reference for weight and balance measurements

When looking at an airplane load sheet, constant reference will be made to the ‘datum’

This is normally defined by the airplane operator, and you’ll typically be able to find out where the datum is in the airplane flight manual (AFM)

You’ll often see a small triangular symbol on load sheets and aircraft trim tables

Dry Operating Weight (DOW)

As the name suggests, the aircraft’s dry operating weight is the total weight, including all operational equipment, but no liquids

It includes your weight (as the pilot)

However, it does not include the passengers

1 million divided by 500,000, while simple, takes a little thought

Like the above, airplane manufacturers will often specify an ‘index’

Simply put, this is a large constant divisor (normally in multiples of 100 or 1000’s) used when calculating aircraft weight and balance to make math easy

Max Landing Weight (MLW)

This is the structural limit of the airplane on landing

It includes everything that will be on board the aircraft

Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW)

Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW)

This is the maximum permissible weight of the airplane on takeoff

While generally, it is a structural limit, it may also be changed depending on runway length, minimum climb gradients, and the useful load you carry onboard

You will often find that you have to take less fuel with a full load of passengers and bags, or vice versa

Maximum Zero Fuel Weight (MZFW)

This is the structural limit of the aircraft, including everything except the fuel

This term uses a straight line drawn through the wing to express the center of gravity

A moment arm is a fancy aviation term to describe a pivot and lever

The pivot is normally the center of gravity

All the different moments are added or subtracted from each other and balanced on the aircraft to give a total moment

Standard Weights

Standard weights are used to make life simple when calculating aircraft mass

They are normally applied to items such as fuel, oil, other fluids, occupants, and bags

Specific gravity is the correction factor applied to a given volume of liquid on board the aircraft

It is normally a decimal number used to determine how much the fuel or oil weighs

Useful Load

Useful load is added to the aircraft’s dry operating weight to give the takeoff weight

If it’s burned, paid for, or paid to be on the aircraft, it normally counts as a useful load

How are Weight and Balance Calculated Using Standard Weights?

Now that you are familiar with some terms let’s take a quick look at how weight and balance are calculated onboard private airplanes

In short, we need to know two things when it comes to airplane weight: –

We can work out their effect on the aircraft if we know these things

ItemWeight (lbs)Arm Length (in inches)Moment ArmAircraft DOW17003559,500Fuel (30 gallons)1804720 (1400)Oil (1 gallon)75362702 x bags (30lbs each)60-5-300TOTALS194760,190

You’ll normally see tables detailing the weight of any additional equipment (including fuel, oil, passengers, and bags)

You’ll also be given the area where it sits on the aircraft relative to the aircraft datum

Just like on a see-saw, adding different items in different places will change how balanced the airplane is

By moving either the distance from the datum or the weight (or both), we can ensure the airplane is correctly in trim and balanced

The box on the lower right side of the table giving a total moment arm is important

Airplane manufacturers will dictate a range of allowable values that we must stay within for the aircraft to be balanced

If we loaded 350 lbs of AVGAS (assuming standard weights around 582 gallons), how close would that put us to the limit?

If you’ve inserted it into the above table, you’ll notice that it gets pretty close!

So, we know that if nothing else changed, that’s the max fuel we could take

The standard convention is that any number with a (-) is ahead of the datum

By summing these arms, we can determine whether the airplane is balanced within allowable limits

Where Can I Learn More About Aircraft Weight and Balance?

Weight and balance is a pretty big subject, and a lot of thought goes into calculating the aircraft’s weight long before you get into the cockpit

Manufacturers weigh the airplane using several calibrated scales and some pretty complex math to arrive at the common values you’ll see in the AFM

The Federal Aviation Administration has an excellent guide on aircraft mass and balance that is well worth reading

Standard weights are used for commonly carried items onboard aircraft, making the calculation of mass and balance much simpler

Volumes of fuel and oil vary in mass depending on temperature and type, so it pays to know a few of the standard conversion factors

Aircraft weight is significant in how an airplane performs

If you want to learn more about airplane mass and balance, why not check out our flight courses, where it is covered as part of our syllabus

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