Aviation Safety Letter 1/2004

To the Letter - Overloading

Further to the article regarding overloading in ASL 2/2003, I wanted to add what I believe should be an item of discussion for pilots who fly rental aircraft - and for anyone who flies multiple aircraft of the same type - as the practice of calculating weight and balance can fade quickly after your flight test.

For the last few years, I have been flying a single type of vintage aircraft (50+ years old), but four different individual aircraft. Soon after I began flying these aircraft, I became well aware of each airplane's individual and unique characteristics and that "all aircraft are not made alike". To make a long story short, as one might expect, each aircraft has its own unique weight and balance data. I have done a basic weight calculation with full fuel and my weight (theoretically a constant), and figured out my useful loads for each aircraft. It is very difficult to exceed the gross weight for this particular make of aircraft and most of the outdated and heavy tube radios, etc. (originally located near the baggage box) have been replaced with lighter-weight equipment. I also did the balance calculations and found something I was unaware of. For three of the four aircraft, everything (both weight and balance) is within the published limits for all occupant and fuel configurations, but for one particular aircraft, if I fly solo with full fuel tanks, I must fly with 10 lbs. of baggage ballast to keep the centre of gravity (C of G) within the specified limits. If I fly solo with fuel tanks ¾ full, or with the rear seat occupied, all calculations indicate that I am within the "envelope".

I was quite surprised and have since checked the Cessna rental fleet that I also occasionally fly. If some of the readers of this letter check out their own scenarios, they might just be surprised at how close (and maybe over) the limits or "outside the envelope" they may be. It may apply for one aircraft and not another. If you are overweight or outside the C of G limits, this invalidates the certificate of airworthiness (C of A) or flight authority. From a practical standpoint, you might think that it really doesn't make any difference, but.

Greg Burnard
London, Ontario

We should all heed your excellent advice, Greg. Thank you. - Ed

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