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A Review of Weight and Balance Terminology

Compliance with weight and balance is critical to the safety of flight. In the event that manufacturer-recommended weight and balance limitations are not followed accordingly, the structural integrity of the aircraft can be adversely affected, destroying performance and results in control difficulty. If you're a pilot, you've more than likely learned the importance of weight and balance as well as how to calculate it for your aircraft. Let's take a minute to review some of the basics of weight and balance terms.What is Weight? Weight is best defined as the force with which gravity attracts a body toward the center of the Earth. It is the resulting factor of a body of mass and the acceleration acting on that body. The force of gravity continuously attempts to pull an aircraft down toward Earth. What is the Force of Lift? If we think about it, because weight is an inevitable factor, the only force that counteracts weight and sustains an aircraft in flight is the force of lift. There are some limiting factors of how much lift can be produced due to its airfoil design — the angle of attack (AOA), airspeed, and air density. If the weight of the aircraft is greater than the aircraft's airfoil design lift generated, the aircraft may be incapable of flight. Let's get into a few technical terms used in weight and balance calculations. First off, we have our datum which is an imaginary vertical line from which all horizontal distances are measured from the purpose of aircraft balance. Second, the arm is a horizontal distance from the reference datum to the center of gravity (C.G.) of an item. Lastly, the moment is the product of the weight of an item multiplied by its arm. Formulas Moment = Weight x Arm C.G. = Total Moment / Total Weight Arm = Moment / Weight Weight = Moment / Arm Why do we need to calculate all of these numbers? Center of Gravity (C.G.) is why! Your C.G. Is the point at which an airplane would balance if suspended. Its distance from the reference datum is found by dividing the total moment by the total weight of the airplane. You have to make sure once you calculate your passenger, cargo, fuel, etc. that it falls within the C.G. envelop designed for your aircraft. Weight and Balance are super important to keep in limitations!
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